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AIDS Action Weekly Update

December 20, 1996

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter that reviews what is happening in Washington on AIDS policy issues each week. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at the e-mail address listed below.

**The next AIDS Action Weekly Update will be published 1/10/97**

National AIDS Strategy Released

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy released this week a long awaited document outlining the Administration's strategy to combat the AIDS epidemic which has claimed over 340,000 American lives. Unfortunately the National AIDS Strategy mostly highlights past accomplishments of the Clinton Administration, while offering vague ideas for the future federal response in the fight against AIDS. While federal funding for AIDS research, prevention, care, and housing have increased dramatically during President Clinton's tenure, especially compared to the records of Presidents Reagan and Bush, there is still much work to be done. The AIDS community plans to hold President Clinton accountable for his repeated statements that ending this epidemic is a priority for him.

AMA Upholds Oklahoma Resolution On Mandatory HIV Testing

The American Medical Association House of Delegates upheld the Oklahoma resolution passed earlier this year recommending mandatory HIV testing of all pregnant women. Two alternative resolutions, one from the Colorado delegation and one from the Utah delegation, called for the override of the Oklahoma resolution and would instead have called for counseling of pregnant women and voluntary HIV testing. The Oklahoma resolution, however, prevailed in a 271-119 vote. During the full floor debate the Oklahoma delegation appealed to the delegates with emotional rhetoric such as "we just want to save our babies," and references to Dr. Tom Coburn, a physician and member of Congress from Oklahoma, who supports mandatory HIV testing. Although the AMA resolution does not have the force of law, it does not bode well for the AIDS community and other health care professionals who believe that coercive measures such as mandatory HIV testing will drive people away from the health care system.

Medicaid Per Capita Cap Strategy For The Administration

As part of the strategy to balance the budget, the Administration is currently in the process of determining the amount of cost reductions required in the Medicaid program to achieve that balance. The Administration may again propose the implementation of a per capita cap in order to attain a cost savings for this program. A per capita cap saves money by capping the federal payment per Medicaid beneficiary. While certainly preferable to block grants, which would involve merely turning over lump sums of money to states for the health care of all Medicaid eligible individuals within those states, the per capita cap does not bode well for individuals with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS as they will quickly exhaust the cap. AIDS advocates as well as other health care advocates, remain concerned that the Administration's overriding insistence on achieving a balanced budget will cause undue harm to the most vulnerable populations in this country.

Women, Poverty And AIDS Publication

The Institute for Health and Social Justice through common Courage Press has recently published a book that deals solely with the issue of how poverty and gender inequality exacerbate AIDS. Women, Poverty and AIDS brings together community activists, physicians, and social scientists to explore "the greatest threat to women's health in our times." Women living in poverty are far more likely than their wealthier counterparts to become infected with HIV, yet these women are the least likely to receive adequate medical care. The book tells the story of AIDS from the eyes of women in poverty all over the world. To request a copy of the book, please call Common Courage Press at 800-497-3207.

Presidential HIV Advisory Council Discusses Incarcerated Populations

HIV/AIDS within incarcerated populations was one of the topics discussed at the meeting of the Presidential HIV Advisory Council earlier this week. This issue has not received enough national attention despite the staggering statistics of HIV/AIDS within incarcerated populations. The overall rate of confirmed AIDS cases among incarcerated populations is more than seven times higher than among the general population and the numbers are increasing rapidly among incarcerated women. Many of those incarcerated do not receive adequate medical treatment, are often ostracized and abused by inmates and prison employees due to their HIV status, and are often released without appropriate guidance or resources that will enable them deal with their HIV status outside of prison. The panel of speakers included Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, Assistant Director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons Health Service Division, Dr. Linda Frank of the Philadelphia AIDS Education Training Center, Madeline Burt, an HIV-positive ex-offender, and Jackie Walker of the American Civil Liberties Union AIDS Prison Project. The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has developed a subcommittee to deal with this issue during the second term and is considering a conference on HIV/AIDS in incarcerated populations in 1997.

For more information contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

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