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AIDS Action Weekly Update

December 6, 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.

World AIDS Day

The ninth annual World AIDS Day, December 1, was marked by events around the world in recognition of this year's theme, "One World, One Hope." President Clinton, in his proclamation address, called for intensification of efforts toward a cure for those living with HIV/AIDS, a vaccine to protect those not infected from the disease, and for protection of the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, an estimated 21.8 million adults and children are living with HIV/AIDS, and it is anticipated that as many as 3 million will become infected with HIV this year.

Senate Leadership Assignments

The Senate leadership, selected earlier this week, remained essentially intact from 104th to the 105th Congress. Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), who was voted Majority Leader after Bob Dole (R-KS) stepped down to concentrate on his presidential campaign, returned to the position. Don Nickles (R-OK) was selected Majority Whip. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Wendell Ford (D-KY) returned to their respective posts as Minority Leader and Minority Whip. Senator Daschle will also remain the Democratic Conference Chair. Connie Mack (R-FL) was selected as the Republican Conference Chairman, taking over for Thad Cochran (R-MS) who held the position last session. The leaders iterated the promise of bipartisanship that President Clinton has been espousing since his reelection.

Senate Committee Assignments

Ratios for the major Senate committees as well as major Senate committee assignments were announced earlier this week. Changes in panels that have jurisdiction over AIDS programs consisted of the Labor and Human Resources Committee ratio of Republicans to Democrats expanding to 10-8 from 9-7. The Labor and Human Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal health programs including the Ryan White CARE Act, will include Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Jack Reed (D-RI) as new members to this committee. Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT), a moderate who has been supportive of AIDS programs, will chair the Labor and Human Resources Committee, taking over for retiring Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS). New members on the Appropriations Committee, which handles spending for federal programs are Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Larry Craig (R-ID), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Lauch Faircloth (R-MS), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) will take over as chair of the Appropriations Committee due to the retirement of Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR), while Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) will leave the Appropriations Committee. New members to the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, includes Senators Richard Bryan (D-NV), Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Bob Kerrey (D-NE), and Connie Mack (R-FL). Assignments for secondary committees will be made next week.

The AMA To Consider Resolutions On HIV Testing

The American Medical Association (AMA) will consider resolutions from the Colorado and Utah delegations regarding the issue of HIV testing of pregnant women this weekend. While both resolutions recommend that the AMA adopt as policy that physicians have a responsibility to provide information to pregnant women about the risk of vertical transmission of HIV to their newborns, and the benefits of testing and treatment, the Colorado measure goes further by requiring that women who choose not to undergo this process sign a refusal form to this effect. Both resolutions respond to the resolution passed in June of this year by the AMA recommending mandatory HIV testing of pregnant women and newborns. Advocates for people with AIDS, women, children, and other medical professions have long been opposed to mandatory HIV testing on the grounds that it discourages people from seeking care and treatment of HIV/AIDS because of fears based on experiences of discrimination, the loss of health care, employment, housing, and custody of children. The Colorado resolution, while certainly better than mandatory testing, unfortunately by requiring the signed refusal, represents further coercive tactics that will drive women away from the health care system. AIDS advocates who have relationships with the AMA, or know physicians who do, are encouraged to weigh-in in favor of the Utah resolution which clearly reflects the community's desire that women be entrusted to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and not be coerced into action that may not be in their best interest or the interest of their children. The vote is scheduled to take place Tuesday, December 10.

Medicaid Reform And Managed Care Report Available

The AIDS Action Foundation has published a report which offers 60 pages of valuable insight into the current Medicaid program, Medicaid reform proposals, managed care, and the implications for people living with AIDS, their advocates, health care providers, and public health officials. Medicaid, the federally-funded health care program for the nation's poor and disabled, is the primary payer for over 50 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in this country, and has been the target of reform efforts throughout the 104th Congress. These reform efforts are likely to continue in the upcoming 105th Congress. Single copies of the report, entitled, "Medicaid Reform & Managed Care, " are available free of charge to AIDS Action network community-based organizations. To request an order form, please contact Kurt Schade at AIDS Action, 202-986-1300, ext. 3060, before Friday, January 3, 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.