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AIDS Action Weekly Update

January 10, 1997

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.

Congress Reconvenes; Gingrich Re-Elected As Speaker

Members of the House and Senate were sworn in as the 105th session of Congress convened Tuesday, January 7. Despite his admission of ethics violations, Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was re-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. While many subcommittee assignments are in transition, many will likely remain the same. Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) will chair the new Public Health and Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. This new subcommittee will oversee the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical education programs, and public health initiatives, while the full committee, chaired by Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT), will retain jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration and health care reform issues related to cost and access. Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) will continue to chair respectively the Labor-HHS-Education and VA-HUD subcommittees of the Senate Appropriations Committee which will be headed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). On the House side, Representatives John Porter (R-IL) and Jerry Lewis (R-CA) will continue to chair respectively the Labor-HHS-Education and VA-HUD subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee. Full committee and subcommittee lists which have jurisdiction over AIDS programs will be available from AIDS Action Council once assignments are confirmed. For further information, please contact Lisa White at 202-986-1300, ext. 3020.

AZT Use During Pregnancy To Be Reviewed

A recent study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that linked high doses of AZT administered to pregnant laboratory mice to cancer in their offspring has prompted a reevaluation of the recommendation of using AZT for pregnant women with HIV. Currently federal health officials recommend the use of AZT by pregnant women with HIV in order to reduce the rate of perinatal HIV transmission. A panel of AIDS and cancer experts will meet next week at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to discuss the current recommendation and whether the NCI findings make it necessary to modify them. The meeting is being organized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the NIH. A NIAID spokesperson said that none of the babies born to women who took AZT and are being medically monitored have developed cancer. It is important to note, however that these children are no more than four years of age and a lengthier study may be necessary to determine if there is a connection.

Supreme Court Hearings On Assisted Suicide

This week the United States Supreme Court held a hearing regarding the implications of allowing dying patients the right to a doctor's assistance in committing suicide. The hearing on this emotional issue involved not only legal questions, but ethical considerations, as well as the personal experiences of the justices. Hundreds of demonstrators from both sides of the issue gathered outside the courthouse during the hearing. Advocates in support of the right of the patient to physician-assisted suicide (including some doctors of AIDS and cancer patients, as well as some groups representing those with terminal illnesses) insist that those with terminal illnesses should be able to make personal choices about when and how they will die.

"Truth In Testimony" House Rule Passes

In one of its first orders of business, the House of Representatives passed Tuesday, January 7, legislation that would require certain witnesses appearing before congressional committees to disclose the amount and the sources of federal funds they receive. The so-called >"Truth In Testimony" House Rule, passed by a vote of 226-202, applies to witnesses appearing in a nongovernmental capacity who present oral testimony before a congressional committee. These witnesses will be required to report federal grants received by the witness or the entity represented by the witness during the current fiscal year or either of the two previous fiscal years to the extent that the information is relevant to the subject matter on which the witness is testifying. Witnesses must also provide a curriculum vitae in addition to the federal funding information. The rule does not apply to the submission of written testimony. If an organization fails to disclose this information the testimony will be stricken from the record. The original language of the rule would have required disclosure of federal funds even if the witness was testifying on an unrelated topic. Concerned agencies will work to promote the narrowest interpretation of the rule in order to avoid attempts to intimidate nonprofit organizations by gratuitously loading them down with red tape.

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.