amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Opioid Addiction - the Next AIDS Epidemic?


Proposed cuts in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Medicaid would cripple efforts to end the opioid epidemic, according to an opinion piece co-authored by amfAR policy associate Alana Sharp and Dr. Rahul Gupta, public health commissioner and state health officer for West Virginia.

West Virginia has the highest drug-related death rate in the country. In addition, a CDC assessment last year found that 50% of the state was at high risk for HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks caused by the sharing of needles among people who inject drugs.

Medicaid is the largest source of funding for behavioral health treatment in the country; one in three of the 2.5 million Americans addicted to opioids is covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the op-ed states.

Dr. Rahul GuptaDr. Rahul GuptaFurthermore, nearly one-quarter of Americans receiving medication-assisted treatment for drug addiction are on Medicaid.

In the piece, published June 15 in The Hill, the authors argue that the drastic contraction of Medicaid proposed in Republican healthcare plans would have a devastating effect. They also note that a White House budget proposal includes a 19% cut to the CDC’s domestic HIV prevention program and a nearly 19% cut to its prevention program for sexually transmitted diseases.

“Cuts of this magnitude would mean significant reductions in funding to state and local health departments, resulting in health department staff layoffs and limiting the capacity of states like West Virginia to respond to their public health needs,” it says.

The op-ed concludes: “… we need only look back at our country’s inaction at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic to remind ourselves that without the political will and financial commitment, it will be nearly impossible to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic in our country. Regrettably, we are poised to repeat history.”