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Q&A: Increased Funding for STD Prevention a ‘Down Payment’

A stethoscope on top of a pile of moneyCongress increased federal funding for STD prevention for the first time in almost 2 decades, according to the National Coalition of STD Directors, adding $3.51 million in base funding to the CDC’s STD prevention programs for fiscal year 2020.

Healio spoke with Matthew Prior, MPH, director of communications for the National Coalition of STD Directors, about the added funding, which comes amid a rise in STDs over the past 5 years. – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Q: Where will the funding go?

A: This is yet to be determined. But if we want it to make an impact, this money should be sent to the frontlines of the STD epidemics — the state and local public health STD programs.

Q: What will it be used for?

A: This will be determined by the CDC working with local jurisdictions, but this increase in funding will likely go to bolster the public health workforce and to enhance existing programs and prevention and care initiatives.

Q: What kind of impact could it have on the STD crisis in the U.S. ? Is it enough?

A: Any increase in funding will have a positive impact. But is it enough? The direct answer is no — not even close. This is a down payment and a step in the right direction. The federal STD prevention program is still $5 million short of where it was in 2003, and the spending power for STD programs has decreased by over 40% because of inflation and rising operational costs. To begin to bend the recent STD trends, we need Congress to support an increase of $82 million — $62 million to fill the gap left due to the loss of spending power and $20 million for direct service funding, otherwise we are short-changing the health of American citizens and trends will continue.

Q: What is needed beyond money?

A: The STD epidemics are spreading too quickly and the causes of these increases are too varied for a simple solution. Here’s where the National Coalition of STD Directors would start:

  • We need coordination and collaboration between federal agencies, not just CDC or HHS. We cannot continue to fight these epidemics on only one front — this is a losing battle. This will require national leadership and champions to spearhead this coordination and to educate providers and the public.
  • We need new national initiatives to fight stigma and provide more science-based sexual health education for youth. Arming people with the facts and empowering people to tell their stories of living with an STD is an amazingly powerful tool for STD prevention.
  • The administration needs to recognize that STD prevention is HIV prevention as part of its Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. We know at least one-in-10 new HIV cases are directly caused by having an STD. We can’t hope to end the HIV epidemic without addressing the intertwined STD epidemics.
  • Lastly, STD programs need flexibility to curate their programs to meet the local need. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the rising tide of STDs, and prescriptive funding and funding restrictions result in a focus on meeting grant requirements rather than providing high-quality, creative services that reflect local needs.
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