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AIDS Action Weekly Update

January 17, 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.

AZT-Cancer Link Discussed At NIH

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting this week among a panel of scientists, bioethicists, and two HIV-infected mothers resulted in the reaffirmation of federal health officials' policy to recommend the AIDS drug AZT to pregnant women with HIV. The recommendation was brought into question when a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study revealed that large doses of AZT given to laboratory mice resulted in the development of cancer in their offspring. The panelists agreed that aside from the difficulty of extrapolating the results from mice to humans, the benefits of reducing the chance of perinatal HIV transmission from mother to child from 25 percent to 8 percent outweighed the concerns raised by the NCI study. While many AIDS advocates agree agree with this, they also point out that too little is known about the long-term effects of AZT on women and their children to mandate its use. Ultimately it is a decision best left to women who are provided with complete information about the positive and negative effects of AZT on them and their children.

Administration's Per Capita Cap Proposal For Medicaid

The Clinton Administration is expected to propose cutting the Medicaid program by $30 billion as part of the strategy to achieve a balanced budget. The President's budget plan, which will be released on or around February 6, is rumored to contain these cuts, which will have a disastrous impact on individuals in this country living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 53 percent of adults and 90 percent of the children living with HIV/AIDS in the United States rely upon Medicaid for their primary health care. Cuts in Medicaid funding would be realized through a per capita cap, restricting the federal payment per Medicaid beneficiary to a certain dollar amount. A per capita cap proposal would have grave implications for people with HIV/AIDS because the cost of health care for individuals living with HIV/AIDS is higher than that of other Medicaid beneficiaries and they would significantly exceed the federal cap. A per capita cap would also result in an increased fiscal burden for states with a high HIV incidence. Advocates for AIDS and other chronic illnesses are urged to appeal to the Administration to refrain from making these cuts to the critical program. Arguments against the proposed reform of Medicaid include the fact that the growth of the program over the last year was a little over three percent, demonstrating that Medicaid expenditures need not inevitably increase at the rates of growth seen in the past.

HIV Prevention Increase In President's Budget

The President's budget, scheduled for release February 6 is reported to include an increase in HIV prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The $20 million increase, is reported to be earmarked for HIV prevention efforts among drug users. This is a particularly important population as nearly three-quarters of new AIDS cases can be linked to substance abuse. Most AIDS programs are expected to receive modest increases in the President's budget. While these increases are somewhat gratifying for AIDS advocates in that they demonstrate the Administration's commitment to AIDS programs, there remain concerns that the increases are inadequate and that there are plans to cut other public health and housing programs and to reform the Medicaid program.

AIDS Focus Of HHS, VA, HUD Meeting

Outgoing Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Henry Cisneros coordinated an unprecedented meeting yesterday of three cabinet secretaries with a group of AIDS housing providers, residents, and advocates. The meeting, chaired by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown, and attended by Cisneros and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, was the first such meeting to focus exclusively on AIDS issues. Cisneros took the opportunity to urge Brown and Shalala to follow his model of involving community-based AIDS service providers and consumers directly affected by federal programs in the development and implementation of AIDS-related programs and policies. AIDS Action Council's Director of Government Affairs Aimee Berenson, who attended the meeting praised Secretary Cisneros' outreach to the AIDS community during his tenure. Secretary Brown committed to adopting the Cisneros community involvement model at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides direct medical care to more people living with HIV and AIDS than any other federal agency. All three secretaries committed to continued collaboration between their agencies to coordinate and strengthen the ability of all federal programs, not just AIDS-specific programs, to meet the continuum of needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

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.