The Second Decade Of AIDS
And The Next U.S. President
A Challenge to Presidential Candidates in Campaign '96
August 12, 1996
Aids In America
A Profile of the Epidemic
- AIDS is the leading cause of death among Americans ages 25 to 44.
- More Americans have died of AIDS-related complications than have died in the
Gulf, Vietnam, and Korean wars combined.
- 513,486 Americans have now been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 319,849 have
died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than
one million Americans are infected with HIV.
- 52.5% of Americans living with HIV and AIDS are people of color: 34%
African-American, 17.5% Latino, .7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and .3% American
- 14% of Americans living with HIV and AIDS are women. Three out of four of
these women are women of color.
-Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Dec. 1995
In the second decade of the AIDS epidemic, there is no question that the
President of the United States must be the nation's Commander in-Chief in the
fight against a disease that has already claimed over 300,000 American lives and
threatens many, many more. AIDS discriminates against no one. There is neither a
community that has been unaffected by, nor a family that has been immune to, the
ravages of this insidious disease. Fueled by poverty, AIDS is spreading fastest
in the communities that have least access to health care and
education, particularly communities of color. We cannot end the AIDS epidemic
without making a commitment to end the crises that keep it growing. Nor can we
ignore the specific demands that the AIDS epidemic now places on this country's
highest elected official. Without the highest level of commitment, the full
resources of the nation cannot be marshaled to meet the challenges that lie
ahead as we fight to end the national tragedy of AIDS.
AIDS Action Council calls on the next President to adopt the following
five-point AIDS agenda:
Despite promising advances in the treatment of AIDS, there is not yet a cure
for, or a preventive vaccine against, HIV disease. And, preventing new HIV
infections is much less costly than the costs associated with treating
newly-infected individuals. Therefore, the next President must ensure that all
Americans have access to effective, skills-based HIV education and prevention
programs targeted to the wide variety of communities affected by the epidemic.
These programs should be open, honest, and sensitive to the needs of communities
at risk for HIV, including adolescents, communities of color, women, and men
having sex with men. The President must also fight attempts at any level to
restrict the content of HIV prevention programs or educational materials.
As the incidence of AIDS continues to spiral among substance abusers, the next
President must commit to adequate funding for substance abuse prevention and
treatment with particular attention to the treatment needs of women, intravenous
drug users, and HIV-infected individuals.
Additionally, the President must lift the prohibition on federal funding for
needle exchange programs and thus ensure that all injection drug users have
access to free needle exchange programs or have the option to purchase clean
Biomedical research is critical to the discovery of new and effective AIDS drugs
and therapies. Behavioral research is critical to developing effective
education and prevention programs that are grounded in science. In dealing with
research issues, the next President must work from the premise that the
interrelatedness of all biomedical and behavioral research requires increased
funding for AIDS re search at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH's Office of AIDS Research (OAR) and its consolidated budget authority
over AIDS research funds must be maintained so that the OAR is able to target
research dollars in a way that assures the most effective and strategic use of
scarce federal resources.
The President must use his leadership to hasten the pace and productivity of
research, and to ensure the expedient development of promising new drugs. The
next President must also take steps to assure that newly approved (and currently
marketed) therapies are affordable and accessible to all people living with HIV
and AIDS. The rapid review and approval of promising HIV-related therapies is
critical to expanding access to drugs for all people with HIV infection. These
steps, however, must not in any way jeopardize the Food and Drug
Administration's public health mission in determining the safety and efficacy of
all drugs and medical devices.
Too many Americans living with HIV and AIDS lack access to the vital care they
need to stay alive and healthy. Many cannot afford private health insurance, and
others confront inadequate or make shift health insurance coverage. The majority
of Americans cannot afford the high cost of prescription drugs, much less the
promise of new AIDS treatments to extend and enhance the quality of their lives.
And, lacking community-based care, many Americans living with HIV and AIDS must
rely on public emergency rooms for their care.
All people living with HIV disease must have access to health care and social
services at all stages of the disease. This must include, at a minimum, full
access to counseling, diagnostic testing, early intervention therapies, in- and
out-patient comprehensive services, community-based care, and drug therapies
treating HIV disease and its complications, including opportunistic infections.
And, these services must be provided by health care professionals who are properly trained
in HIV and AIDS care and treatment.
Absent universal health care, the next President must commit to strengthening
federal support for vital health care and social services such as the Ryan White
CARE Act and Medicaid. AIDS care services authorized under the Ryan White CARE
Act, including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, should be fully funded or
granted significant funding in creases. The Medicaid entitlement must be
maintained, as must the guarantee to basic health care that this safety-net
program represents to half of all Americans living with HIV and AIDS.
For people living with HIV and AIDS, housing can make the difference between
life and death. Ad equate housing is critical to preventing the onset of illness
and to maintaining the quality of life for HIV infected individuals and their
families. For example, without housing, HIV-infected Americans cannot access
potentially life-enhancing or life-prolonging drug therapies.
As the epidemic grows among low-income communities and the already homeless, the
need for housing is also growing. The President must demonstrate a strong
commitment to the reauthorization of the Housing Opportunities for People With
AIDS (HOPWA) program and other federal housing pro grams. This commitment must
include support for an increase in funding for the HOPWA program, which, despite
a steady increase in need, and in the number of cities and states qualifying for
grants, has been subject to level funding for three years.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans living with HIV and AIDS must battle not only
the disease itself, but also fear, stigma, and discrimination. Many Americans
remain at risk of losing their jobs (including military careers), their homes,
even the companionship and support of their families, simply be cause they are
The next President must show that mandatory testing and other HIV-related
discrimination are un-American and unacceptable. The President must ensure that
the moral and legal authority of the federal government is used to fight
discrimination against people living with, at risk for, or perceived to be at
risk for, HIV infection. The President must fully implement the Americans with
Disabilities Act and fight against policies that bar people living with HIV and
AIDS from insurance coverage, employment, housing, and entrance into the
The next President must ensure that HIV antibody testing is not used as a means
of social control or as a tool for discrimination. HIV antibody testing should
only be offered as a diagnostic tool used to inform medical decision-making.
For more information, contact
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, Ext. 3042
Founded in 1984, AIDS Action is the only national organization devoted solely to advocating on federal AIDS policy and legislation. AIDS Action represents more than 1,400 community-based AIDS service organizations throughout the United States.