The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cut $2 million from the budget of its Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) – money that would have paid for grants to local health departments for Viral Hepatitis Integration Projects (VHIP).
VHIP supported 15 local and state health departments in integrating viral hepatitis services (such as hepatitis C testing, hepatitis A and B vaccination, and prevention and education) into existing public health settings, including HIV programs, STD clinics, and needle exchange programs.
For examples of viral hepatitis integration, see Starting UP: First Steps Towards the Integration of Viral Hepatitis in HIV/AIDS/STD Programs [PDF file] from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), which has developed a range of excellent materials on viral hepatitis integration.
The first round of VHIP grants went to health departments in New York City, Erie County (NY), Denver, Houston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia. The CDC had put out a request for proposals for a second round of funding. With the $2 million cut to the DVH budget, no projects will be funded or continued.
Here’s a template letter [MS Word file] you can send to CDC Director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, to express your concerns about the cuts—and send copies to your Representative and Senators. Below is the text of a letter about the VHIP cuts sent by NASTAD’s Executive Director, Julie M. Scofield.
May 20, 2004
Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road, NE, Mail Stop D-14
Atlanta, Georgia 30333
Dear Dr. Gerberding,
On behalf of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), whose members represent state HIV prevention and care programs nationwide, I am writing to express our deep concern over the recent decision by CDC to cut approximately $2 million from the Division of Viral Hepatitis’ (DVH) FY2004 budget and, as a result, to eliminate the Viral Hepatitis Integration and Intervention Project (VHIIP) program. A cut of this magnitude to a Division with an annual budget of approximately $25 million is substantial, and its impact will be felt across the country.
Over the past several years DVH has worked closely with state and local health departments to develop viral hepatitis prevention programs with very limited resources. Health departments have focused on integrating hepatitis services into existing public health programs (e.g., HIV, STD) in an effort to capitalize on existing infrastructures and available resources. DVH initiated the VHIIP cooperative agreement many years ago to provide some funding to support these efforts. Although the funds provided were small, health departments used these limited resources creatively, working in collaboration with other public health agencies and community organizations to provide viral hepatitis prevention services. Now, as states and localities have built programs, momentum and interest in their communities around viral hepatitis, DVH has discontinued the VHIIP program because of budget cuts.
DVH provides approximately $4.1 million dollars to fifty jurisdictions for the hepatitis C coordinator program; the average funding award for a jurisdiction is $83,000. Currently, these dollars are the only federal funds that health departments receive, and these funds are able to support little more than personnel. Health departments are unable to conduct core public health functions, such as disease surveillance, and provide critical prevention and detection services, with the little resources they receive. Until CDC provides greater leadership on this issue, we fear that our nation’s public health response to these diseases will remain inadequate.
We value CDC’s and the National Center for Infectious Diseases’ (NCID) national and international leadership in addressing both emerging and existing infectious diseases through surveillance, epidemiologic research and disease investigation. We feel that NCID and DVH are well placed to provide similar leadership to the development of strong viral hepatitis prevention programs in the United States.
We urge you to reconsider this funding decision and to dedicate greater resources within CDC to combat these diseases.
We remain committed to working with CDC to mount an effective public health response to viral hepatitis. We appreciate your attention to this matter and welcome opportunities to work with you on this issue.
Julie M. Scofield
CC: Ladd Wiley, HHS
Christine Beato, HHS
Chris Bates, HHS
Ed Thompson, CDC
Don Shriber, CDC
James Hughes, CDC
Harold Margolis, CDC
Jeff Efird, CDC
George Hardy, ASTHO
Pat McConnon, CSTE
Patrick Libbey, NACCHO
Theresa Raphael, NCSD
Claire Hannan, AIM
Julie M. Scofield
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors
444 N. Capitol Street, NW, Suite 339
Washington, DC 20001