In a major shakeup for the HIV/AIDS research community, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced it will no longer support setting aside a fixed 10% of its budget—or $3 billion this year—to fund research on the disease. The agency also plans to reprogram $65 million of its AIDS research grant funding this year to focus more sharply on ending the epidemic.
The changes follow growing pressure in Congress and from some advocacy groups for NIH to reallocate its funding based on the public health burden a disease causes. In recent years, HIV/AIDS has been imposing a lower burden as death rates have dropped and treatments have improved.
The changes are drawing a mixed reaction from the AIDs community and scientists. Although some scientists’ grants are now at risk, “there is broad support for the idea of oversight and review and a rigorous focus on the highest priority science with our precious research dollars,” says Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Chris Beyrer, president of the International AIDS Society. More worrisome to his group and others is uncertainty about future increases for AIDs research.