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AIDS Action Weekly Update

April 18, 1997

AIDS Action Testifies At Appropriations Hearing

AIDS Action Council Executive Director Daniel Zingale testified as a public witness before the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Wednesday April 17, on the importance of FY 98 funding increases for AIDS programs within the subcommittee's appropriations bill. AIDS Action Council, testified on behalf of over 1,400 community-based organizations and the people with HIV/AIDS they serve. The testimony focused on the links between prevention, care, and research programs in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. In addition, the testimony highlighted the resources needed to respond to growing case loads, unmet needs, and unfunded research opportunities and recommended the funding increases above FY 97 levels developed by the National Organizations Responding to AIDS (NORA) coalition. The funding recommendations were as follows: HIV prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $212 million for a total of $829 million; Ryan White CARE Act, $393.9 million overall for a program total of $1,390.2 million; AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $135 million for a total of $1,636.2 million; and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Blockgrant, $140 million for a blockgrant total of $1,500 million.

Coburn Watch

The HIV Prevention Act of 1997 (H.R. 1062), introduced in March by Representative Tom Coburn (R-OK), has gained two additional cosponsors this week, Representatives Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Vince Snowbarger (R-KS). The Senate companion bill, S. 503, introduced by Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) has gained two cosponsors thus far, Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Robert Smith (R-NH). AIDS advocates need to discourage their members of congress from signing on to the bills which have nothing to do with HIV prevention, but merely seek to implement the means to test and report individuals with HIV, and to educate their members so that such provisions are not attached to appropriations bills as negative amendments.

ADAP Working Group Congressional Educational Forum

The ADAP Working Group, a coalition of AIDS advocacy organizations and research-based pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology organizations held a Congressionally-sponsored educational forum Thursday, April 17, entitled, "The Promise of New AIDS Treatments and the Crisis in Access." The forum was hosted by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Bill Frist (R-TN) and Representatives Rick Lazio (R-NY) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and many other members of New York's congressional delegation. The forum included a presentation of preliminary data from a national survey of State AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) suggesting that for FY 98, combined federal and states appropriations of $554,318,812 will be needed to meet the projected needs of underinsured and uninsured patients for life-extending and life-enhancing combination drug therapies (that includes protease inhibitors). The requested increase includes a $131.8 million increase above FY 97 in federal funds for ADAP which is part of Title II of the Ryan White CARE Act. The president's FY 98 budget request provided for funding increases across all five titles of the CARE Act but flat-funded the ADAP earmark at $167 million. Speakers at the ADAP forum included Mary Fisher, a nationally known AIDS treatment advocate, as well as AIDS researchers and physicians, public health officials, National Organizations Responding to AIDS (NORA) Co-chair David Harvey, and several individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDSWatch '97

AIDSWatch, the annual national lobbying event in which people living with HIV/AIDS, their caregivers, representatives from community-based organizations, and others concerned about the epidemic come from all over the country to Washington, D.C. to lobby their members of congress for increased funding for federal AIDS research, care, prevention, and housing programs. AIDSWatch '97 involved the participation of over 400 participants representing 37 states and the District of Columbia. The Hill visits focused on appropriations issues and appropriations-related issues such as the Coburn bill and needle exchange programs. As a result of this constituent pressure several House cosponsors of the Coburn bill are reconsidering their support of the legislation.

Budget Resolution Deadline Missed

Members of congress failed to meet the April 15 statutory deadline for the budget resolution, which provides the framework from which appropriators determine the spending limits for their programs. The delay is being blamed on the inability of budget negotiators to come to an agreement on a balanced budget. Budget negotiators have been meeting over the last few weeks and have been unable to strike a deal, but hope to do so within the next week. House Budget Chair John Kasich (D-OH) has announced his intention to move a budget resolution fairly soon regardless of the outcome of next week's negotiations.

Federal Ban On Assisted Suicide Passed By Congress

Legislation that will ban federal funds from being used to support assisted suicide was passed in the House last week, 398-16, and in the Senate this week, 99-0. Opponents of the measure pointed out that federal funds are not currently used to support assisted suicides and there are no plans to make federal funds available to do so, while proponents of the legislation argued that a possible Supreme Court decision to establish assisted suicide as a right or more states legalizing it will put federal funds at jeopardy of being used to support it. AIDS Action Council, which represents over 1,400 community-based organizations across the nation recently passed a resolution opposing a ban on federal funding for health care programs that address assisted suicide. Among the reasons for opposing such a ban are that AIDS Action believes that the federal government should not interfere with the exercise of the fundamental right to make individual decisions about life and death by imposing generic bans on federal funding to health care programs that address assisted suicide for terminally ill, mentally competent individuals in any way; and that such a federal ban does nothing to address concerns about providing patients with procedural and substantive protections against coercion and other potential abuses of legalized assisted suicide.

For more information, contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3053
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.