Contact: Joe Zuñiga, AIDS Action
(202) 986-1300 Ext. 3042
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last year marked a watershed in the AIDS epidemic with the
exciting news that promising AIDS drug therapies may produce dramatic, longterm
health improvements for people living with HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately,
preliminary reports about the fiscal year 1998 (FY98) federal budget to be
released Thursday by the Clinton administration - complete with a five-year
balanced budget plan that includes $22 billion in federal Medicaid funding cuts
-- indicate that funding for the full range of AIDS-related programs will be
inadequate to ensure that HIV-infected Americans can benefit from new standards
of care and state-of-the-art drug therapies.
While AIDS Action Council, the nation's leading AIDS advocacy organization,
recognizes that President Clinton has proposed some funding increases for AIDS
care, prevention, research, and housing programs, it described most of these
increases as "woefully inadequate" in light of an expanding epidemic. Especially
alarming is the threat posed to people living with HIV and AIDS by billions of
dollars in Medicaid funding cuts over the next five years. AIDS Action Council
fears the Medicaid cuts will undermine a health care safety-net program upon
which an overwhelming majority of people living with HIV disease rely for health
care services and prescription drugs. The Medicaid funding cuts will also place
additional pressure on an already overburdened Ryan White CARE Act program.
"We thank the Clinton administration for proposing funding increases for AIDS
programs at a time of budgetary retrenchment. However, there exists a tremendous
gap between the needs posed by the AIDS epidemic and the amount of federal
resources directed toward vital AIDS medical and social care services, and
housing programs," said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action Council's executive
"Perhaps most troubling about President Clinton's budget is that at a time when
the federal investment in AIDS research has paid off with the promise of new
AIDS drug therapies, his budget proposals for FY98 and beyond threaten the very
programs that provide people living with HIV and AIDS access to AIDS drugs
themselves and the continuum of housing and care programs," Zingale added.
Preliminary information about President Clinton's FY98 budget proposal requests
for AIDS-specific programs is as follows: [Please note that final budget numbers
will be made available Thursday, February 6.]
- REQUESTED: An additional $40 million for all titles of the Ryan White CARE Act.
[The FY97 Ryan White CARE Act appropriation was $996.3 million.]
- REQUESTED: An additional $20 million for HIV prevention at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [The FY97 HIV prevention appropriation was
- REQUESTED: An increase of 2.5 percent for AIDS research efforts at the National
Institutes of Health (NIH). [The FY97 appropriation for NIH research was $1.5
- REQUESTED: An additional $7.8 million for the Housing Opportunities for People
With AIDS (HOPWA) program. [The FY97 appropriation for HOPWA was $196 million.]
- AIDS Action Council is also concerned about some of the budgetary assumptions
outlined in President Clinton's five-year balanced budget plan:
- In its FY98 budget proposal, the Clinton administration reiterates its
commitment to balancing the federal budget in five years. A worrisome component
of the balanced budget plan calls for $22 billion in federal Medicaid funding
cuts achieved by capping federal funding for Medicaid beneficiary, and shifting
the fiscal burden to the states. AIDS Action Council fears that as a cost-saving
measure, states may curtail or eliminate prescription drug coverage for people
living with HIV and AIDS. Worse, states may deny Medicaid eligibility to
"medically needy" people because of the high cost of their health care. Most
people living with HIV and AIDS qualify for Medicaid under the "medically needy"
"President Clinton championed the Medicaid program in the 104th
Congress, refusing to acquiesce to efforts to dismantle this vital program,"
said Christine Lubinski, AIDS Action Council's deputy executive director. "It
would be nothing short of tragic if, just when we have the most hope for saving
the lives of HIV-infected individuals, those very people are deprived of access
to health care."
- AIDS Action Council is also concerned that the burden of balancing the budget
will fall on domestic discretionary programs, among which are vital
AIDS-specific and -related programs. Under President Clinton's balanced budget
proposal, domestic discretionary programs could see devastating cuts in funding
over the next five years.
"No one opposes the idea of a balanced budget. However, it is unacceptable to
achieve a balanced budget by unbalancing the carefully constructed continuum of
programs that have brought us so much success in the fight against AIDS"
Zingale said. "It is equally unacceptable to set the federal response to AIDS
backward at the very moment we are starting to reap important benefits and, for
the first time, seeing real hope and promise in fighting this epidemic."
Zingale added that just as the Clinton administration demonstrated a short-term
commitment to AIDS programs by recommending modest FY98 funding increases, also
necessary is a long-term commitment to these programs. "The fundamental
humanitarian values these programs embody are every bit as important as the
nation's need for fiscal control," Zingale said.