Funders Concerned About AIDS Applauds the Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act

Urges continued, comprehensive focus on health equity

March 12, 2021 – Earlier this week, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that includes support for vaccines, schools, small businesses, and anti-poverty programs, as well as historic funding for critical syringe exchange programs and other harm reduction-related services.  Additionally, the ARPA provides roughly $11 billion in support for the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including among it, $3.5 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and $250 million for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

“COVID-19 is rapidly deepening inequality and health disparities in the U.S. and around the world and has thrown the global HIV response into deeper crisis,” said John Barnes, Executive Director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. “We thank President Biden and Congressional leaders for this expansive legislation that provides critical funding to address some of the systemic and structural issues that fuel both COVID-19 and HIV.”

The pandemic has raised the barriers to health and wellness for marginalized populations living with, or at risk of acquiring, HIV even higher. In addition to struggling to meet basic needs, they fear for their safety and security, with an increase in gender-based violence and violence against LGBTQ communities during lockdowns. These communities— including men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, sex workers, and young people—are often excluded from government social and health services, and emergency COVID-19 funding programs. A recent survey[1] from the Kaiser Family Foundation also found that LGBTQ people in the U.S. have experienced higher rates of mental health conditions and job loss due to COVID-19 than non-LGBTQ people.

Philanthropy has long played a role in addressing global health crises. The history of the HIV response contains countless examples of grant makers who supported evidence-based programs that broke through the barriers of prejudice and stigma. Funders responding to HIV have, over the past four decades, born witness to the damaging effects of intersectional discrimination and inequality. These challenges have been further illuminated in the COVID response.

With that experience in mind, as the ARPA takes effect, FCAA urges the Biden Administration to:

  • Ensure that COVID-19 vaccines and other biomedical technologies are accessible to everyone, everywhere free of charge, with no discrimination, including those most marginalized, and those who are un/underinsured or undocumented, and that research trials speak to the needs of marginalized groups and communities of color.
  • Guarantee that federal COVID-19 assistance programs are accessible to the most marginalized, including undocumented populations.
  • Elevate US government’s commitment to health equity, especially immediate action on addressing racial health disparities.
  • During the pandemic response, maintain critical HIV services, including equitable access to medicines and testing; and ramp up key prevention services to prevent new infections.  
  • Reconstitute the U.S. Office of National AIDS Policy to help direct and coordinate national level HIV response and priorities.

The inclusion of funding for the Global Fund and PEPFAR also plays a critical role in not only addressing COVID-19, but also in advancing global health equity. FCAA urges for continued support of these and other global institutions – such as the World Health Organization and Unitaid – to promote an equitable and effective global response to COVID-19 and HIV.

“The passage of this legislation may be recorded as another important chapter in the long history of U.S. leadership in global health,” said Barnes. “However, true leadership will mean that Congress and the Administration help ensure that these funds and the plans they support meaningfully address the needs of marginalized communities around the world.”

About FCAA

Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) is a philanthropy-serving organization founded in 1987 to take bold actions and push philanthropy to respond to HIV/AIDS. Our intent then and now: to inform, connect, and support philanthropy in response to the global pandemic of HIV and AIDS. We work broadly, engaging funding organizations that address issues that are inter-related with, and often fuel HIV, including health equity, racism, homophobia, poverty, and reproductive health and justice.

Learn more about FCAA’s work, and the convergence of COVID-19 and HIV, here.

[1] KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor. The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBT People. 11 March 2020.