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Trump Administration Cuts Funding for HIV Cure Research Due to Stem Cell Research Opposition

Last week, the Trump administration enacted yet another cut to HIV/AIDS funding, this time targeting research: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Washington Post reported, would no longer financially support a research lab in California working to move us closer to an HIV cure or vaccine. Anti-choice proponents, who are enjoying more influence than in recent years because of allies in Congress and the White House, sought to end this and other NIH contracts because of their concerns about the use of fetal tissue, collected from elective abortions, in the research.

The lab at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has produced prominent research in the history of the HIV epidemic: as the Post writes, “Almost every drug for treating or preventing HIV infection has been tested at the UCSF laboratory and an affiliate.” The researchers do so by using fetal tissue of a thymus gland – which produces T cells that protect against HIV replicating in the body – to grow the same gland inside mice to test various chemical compounds that later become HIV prevention or management drugs.

Anti-choice advocates have successfully encouraged federal agency heads and lawmakers to reconsider the well established research practice of using fetal tissue; the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in September that it would review all such contracts, and the UCSF lab is not the first affected by these policy shifts. A smaller contract with a nonprofit called Advanced Bioscience Resources was ended earlier this year due to their work with fetal tissue. While HHS contends that no final decisions have been made writ large about the use of fetal tissue in federally funded research, the abrupt ending of these contracts – particularly the multimillion dollar one with the UCSF lab – worries health and science advocates, despite HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir’s assertion that Trump’s is a “pro-life, pro-science administration.”

AIDS United stands with our clinical colleagues against ideologically driven research agendas and with the larger sexual & reproductive health community against the demonization of necessary medical procedures and research. We urge the Administration to restore the vital funding and evidence-based research practices. Check back to the Policy Update regularly for the latest on HIV policy, funding, and research.

UPDATE: The administration responded to the Washington Post report on December 5 in a comment posted to Twitter: 

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, December 14, 2018

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