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February 6, 2013
The Other Way to End AIDS
by Kate Krauss
The executive director of the AIDS Policy Project on the Cure for AIDS Act.
If you could raise $100 million for AIDS cure research—just for the cure—would you do it?
The Cure for AIDS Act was introduced into Congress last summer by a former banker from Connecticut.
Rep. Jim Himes (D–Conn.), formerly of Goldman Sachs, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. He's also the child of a one-time UNICEF official, and he cares deeply about stopping the AIDS pandemic.
He did the math: The United States is spending $19 billion on care and treatment for people with AIDS every year but a bit over $50 million to try to cure the disease—still only about 3 percent of the AIDS research budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He knew the research was going well—so why weren't we pushing to find a cure as quickly as possible? Because more money means that a lot of things can happen simultaneously. It can mean speed.
So last July, with little fanfare, Rep. Himes introduced the Cure for AIDS Act.
If the bill passed, $100 million over five years would actually go into the military's AIDS research budget, a new source of cure research funding, where scientists and community advocates would help decide how it is spent. The Cure for AIDS Act attracted some important cosponsors, but ran out of time before it could get much traction.
We're in a new legislative year now. Congress is in session. And we have another chance to support this bill and push to get it passed.
The money is badly needed. Only the slimmest fraction of cure proposals are funded at the NIH—so that many researchers must wait years to get together the money needed to fund their work. And this doesn’t even include young researchers—or the scientists from other fields we'd love to pull into cure research for their innovative ideas. NIH funding for a cure is a flat $54 million. After all, you don't need rocket fuel to pedal a bicycle. But we want something big, that moves fast. We want to build a rocket.
The Cure for AIDS Act requires a big, bipartisan group of cosponsors with enough firepower to get it through Congress and into an appropriations bill where it can make it into law. Last week, a group of activists in Los Angeles took an important step and convinced a new cosponsor, Rep. Henry Waxman (D–Calif.), to sign on. We are talking to other legislators to cosponsor the bill as well.
Certainly, the cure for AIDS is a bipartisan issue. In fact, the idea for the AIDS Policy Project cure campaign came from something that Rick Warren, an evangelical Christian minister, said to an AIDS activist in 2009: "Why aren't we working on a cure for AIDS? That's what we need!"
Well, we're working on it now. And we need your help. We all want a cure. And together we can do it.
We must call on our Congressional representatives to cosponsor this bill. And we must thank its early cosponsors—Rep. Barbara Lee (D–Calif.), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D–Fla.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D–Fla.) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D–Fla.)—and show them that we support it.
And we also have to push for a cure in other ways—by spreading the word about this campaign. By encouraging private funding cure research: Right now, only one private foundation, amfAR, funds AIDS cure research. And frankly, by funding and supporting AIDS cure advocacy to make sure that the job gets done.
There is much work ahead of us. But wow—what an opportunity. A cure could save millions of lives, now and in the future.
And to Jim Himes, the former banker in Connecticut, we say: Thank you.
Watch Rep. Himes talk about AIDS:
To sign up as a volunteer if you haven't already, click here.
For the text of the Cure for AIDS Act, click here.
Frederick Wright, Coachelle Valley, 2013-02-26 18:36:14
Great News and Yes, the Military is said to have the best scientist money can by working on bio stuff you know. Rick warren is a Saint and not a Fanatic he give 90 percent of his wealth to charity and this Christian HIV Gay Man love him and his wife's faith work, come on folks Unit. NIH has taking no leadership on a cure until it was safe to speak and is in bed with Pharma. Wake up folks this is a blessing and get behind it, for I know I am and like Katie stated it is a no brainer.
Anon, Washington, DC, 2013-02-23 11:40:08
We should locate funding away from the NIH because they've had 30+ years, and have, if anything, shown themselves to be counterproductive in the research and development of HIV breakthroughs. Other groups meanwhile have a track record of success.
Nik, New York, 2013-02-11 09:38:45
I was very surprised to learn via Kate Krauss that Rep. Hines' bill would locate AIDS research funding in the Pentagon. Why is it a defense project instead of NIH and how would advocates and PLWA's control the spending? On its face it doesn't seem like a good idea.
Matt Sharp, San Francisco, 2013-02-06 21:36:44
Congratulations APP! I hope this gets traction. I would only question using Rick Warren as any figurehead for AIDS Cure research and would question any motive coming from a right wing fanatatic. There are many other more important people that have also called for a cure for AIDS. My two cents.