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March 2013
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From the President: Protecting Medical Research Funding

As ID specialists, we see firsthand how research advances medical knowledge, improves the lives of patients, and protects public health. On April 8, thousands of patients, researchers, clinicians, and other advocates will gather in Washington, D.C., to deliver this message and urge lawmakers to make federal funding for medical research—including in ID and HIV—a national priority.

You can help amplify this important message. IDSA and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) have joined with nearly 150 other organizations and institutions to co-sponsor the “Rally for Medical Research” to raise awareness of the need for sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve health, spur more progress, inspire hope, and save more lives.

Even if you can’t attend in person, you can still make your voice heard. Share your thoughts with your local newspaper through a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece. You can also watch the rally streamed live online on April 8. (A recent member email has additional information about how you can help.)

This is a critical time: Funding for NIH has failed to keep pace with inflation for several years, and NIH now faces funding reductions as a result of across-the-board cuts for all federal agencies that went into effect on March 1, known as sequestration. More cuts would further threaten our ability to discover and develop diagnostics and treatments for life-threatening diseases. NIH is already projected to fund 3,000 fewer grants this year than it did 10 years ago.

Of particular concern to ID researchers, the percentage of investigators who apply for and receive funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is at a historic low. Under sequestration, the success rate for funding applications through NIAID for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year is expected to be approximately 20 percent. Grants will also face a 5 percent cut.

The issue is also an economic one: Funding cuts at NIH would also eliminate jobs and jeopardize American innovation and competitiveness, threatening the development of the next generation of biomedical researchers. NIH-supported research supported an estimated 432,000 jobs across the country in 2011 and generated $62 billion in economic activity. Would-be ID researchers who decide to go into other kinds or areas of work are not so easily recruited back when funding later becomes more available.

Supporting adequate funding for ID-related research—and for critical public health and prevention programs—are top priorities for IDSA. We continue to emphasize to policymakers the need for a strong and well-supported public health system that can respond to public health emergencies, such as pandemic influenza, the recent fungal meningitis outbreak, and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.

There are many ongoing challenges that also must be addressed, including antimicrobial resistance, efforts targeting vaccine-preventable illnesses, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment here and around the world. Agencies such as NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the United States Agency for International Development need robust funding to address these important priorities. IDSA (PDF) and HIVMA (PDF) highlighted several of these priorities in recent funding statements submitted to a House Appropriations Subcommittee.

If you will be in the Washington, D.C., area on April 8, consider attending the “Rally for Medical Research.” Wherever you are, you can make a difference by highlighting the value of funding for medical research and for public health and prevention programs. As we well know, these investments save lives, reduce health care costs, and create jobs.
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