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AIDS Action Questions Whether HIV Prevention Is The Real Goal Of HIV Prevention Act Of 1996

August 1, 1996

WASHINGTON, D.C.- AIDS Action Council, the nation's leading AIDS advocacy organization, today denounced the HIV Prevention Act of 1996, championed by Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), as a blatant attempt by the Oklahoma congressman and fringe right-wing groups to promote failed policies that do nothing to prevent any more Americans from becoming infected with HIV.

"The HIV Prevention Act of 1996 is nothing more than a warmed over collection of right-wing proposals that replace education and personal responsibility with Big Brother punishment and control." said Jay Coburn, legislative representative at AIDS Action Council. "All these policies have either been resoundingly rejected by medical, public health and prevention experts nationwide, or represent one-size fits all solutions from Washington that tie the hands of states and communities trying to effectively respond to the specific demographics of the HIV epidemic."

AIDS Action Council noted that the HIV Prevention Act of 1996 includes provisions that would allow medical professionals to test patients for HIV without discussing it with patients or getting patients' consent; a requirement that states report the names of all people testing positive for HIV to the federal government; and a requirement that states track down every person that may have been exposed to HIV by a current or past partner and notify them that they may be infected with HIV.

"None of these proposals do anything to further the community-based prevention efforts that have been highly-effective in changing risk behaviors and significantly reducing the transmission of HIV in a cost effective manner," said AIDS Action Council's Jay Coburn. "In general, the coercive measures included here have been repeatedly demonstrated to discourage individuals at risk for HIV-infection from seeking appropriate counseling and testing and push the epidemic even further underground."

AIDS Action Council also denounced Rep. Coburn's attempt to hold hostage millions of state Medicaid dollars in order to force state compliance with the HIV Prevention Act of 1996. State Medicaid funds, when pooled with federal Medicaid funding, finance basic health care services for more than 37 million Americans, including half of all people living with HIV and AIDS.

"Rep. Coburn's provision to cut off state Medicaid funding to states that do not comply with his misguided `prevention' blueprint speaks volumes about the extremist, mean-spirited intent that is truly behind the HIV Prevention Act of 1996," said Jay Coburn.

While the HIV Prevention Act of 1996 also expresses a sense of Congress that strict confidentiality must be observed at all times in carrying out the provisions of the Act, AIDS advocates question how much confidentiality really matters to Rep. Coburn. "We suspect it has been included as a matter of political expediency," said AIDS Action Council's Jay Coburn. "If Mr. Coburn and other bill sponsors were truly concerned about confidentiality, they would criminalize breaches of confidentiality and prohibit discrimination in health care, housing and employment based on HIV status."

For more information, contact:
José Zuniga
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.
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