|Critics Say Too Much Money Spent on AIDS Compared to Other Diseases|
A grassroots movement to pressure Congress to base funding for disease research on mortality rates would sharply reduce levels of public funds spent for AIDS research and treatment.
One method of comparing research funding for various diseases is to calculate how much money is spent for every death caused by each disease.
The number of deaths has fallen from a high of 50,260 in 1995 to 15,245 in 2001. Despite the dramatic decline in deaths, funding for AIDS research and treatment has skyrocketed-largely as a result of successful lobbying by AIDS advocacy organizations.
Dr. Richard Darling, a California dentist who is spearheading the movement, calls it "grossly unfair" that money spent on AIDS exceeds the amount spent on illnesses such as heart disease, which kills more than 700,000 annually. "The entire allocation system is outrageously biased towards AIDS," said Dr. Darling. "The system is extremely unfair to heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate disease, Alzheimer s and leukemia."
The National Institutes of Health will spend $2.5 billion for AIDS research this year, compared with $1.9 billion for cardiovascular diseases. Other diseases that receive far few research dollars include:
* Cancer: The second leading cause of death in the United States, 549,838 people died of cancer in 1999. NIH is funding the National Cancer Institute at an estimated $4.2 billion in 2002-or $7,713 for each death from cancer.
* Breast Cancer: With 180,000 new cases each year, breast cancer is the leading cause of death among American women who are 40-55 years of age. Each year about 46,000 women die of the disease. The NIH is currently spending $396 million on breast cancer research-or $8,608 per death from the disease.
* Diabetes: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 million Americans have diabetes-the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In 1999 64,751 people died from complications associated with diabetes. The NIH has budgeted $450 million for diabetes research-or $6,949 per death from diabetes.
Despite the fact that since 1998 AIDS has not been on the list of the top 15 causes of death in America, the current NIH AIDS research budget amounts to an astounding $164,000 per AIDS death. This figure does not include the public monies spent to treat AIDS through the federal Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources (CARE) Act. Funding for CARE is currently $1.8 billion.
The imbalance in funding for research is particularly striking in light of the fact that the primary risk factors for contracting AIDS are voluntary behaviors that are already well known. In the United States, a majority of AIDS cases result from men having sex with men or from illegal use of intravenous drugs.
Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) recently voiced support for Dr. Darling s concerns: "If you have the politically correct disease, the prospect of getting federal funding to help find the cure are 100 times greater than if you have some other disease, even though it may be much more common."