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AIDS Action Network Fax

July 18, 1997

AIDS Action reminds nation that AIDS is not over despite 19 percent decline in U.S. AIDS death rate.

Front page stories across the country trumpeted the news July 15 of a 19 percent decline in total U.S. AIDS deaths, confirming that the historic 13 percent drop in AIDS deaths reported in January was not a unique occurrence. It would appear that this good news is directly linked to access to quality health care and improved AIDS treatments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) AIDS mortality figures, which were released July 14 at AIDS Action's first national forum on the state of the AIDS epidemic, were presented in the context of the challenges facing communities that continue to grapple with AIDS. The forum's over-arching theme was a challenge to ensure equal access to federal HIV prevention programs and to the continuum of care people affected by HIV/AIDS require to stay alive and healthy. As the CDC data indicate, AIDS continues to ravage women and communities of color- the fastest growing groups of new AIDS cases. According to CDC statistics, there is a significant difference between the decline in AIDS deaths among men (22 percent) and women (7 percent). The CDC also reports AIDS deaths among African-Americans and Latinos dropped 10- and 16 percent, respectively, versus a 28 percent decline among Caucasians. AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale summed up the forum's message as: "AIDS is not over, but if we act like it is, it may never be."

House, Senate subcommittees approve $258 million in FY98 funding increases for HIV/AIDS programs

A House subcommittee passed a fiscal year 1998 funding bill July 15 that calls for a $250 million funding increase for AIDS care, prevention and research programs - this includes a 79 percent increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Meanwhile, in the Senate, an appropriations subcommittee proposed an $8 million increase for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program. The House Labor/HHS Subcommittee recommended funding increases for the following AIDS programs:

  • The Ryan White CARE Act, the bedrock of AIDS care for people with HIV/AIDS, would receive an increase of $172 million over the FY97 funding level of $996.3 million. ADAP's would receive $132 million of this funding increase -- an infusion that could allow cash-strapped ADAP's to continue to provide HIV/AIDS medications to over 80,000 Americans living with HIV/AIDS.
  • AIDS research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would receive a $73 million, or 4.8 percent, increase over the FY97 funding level of $1.5 billion.
  • HIV prevention programs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would receive a $5 million, or 0.8 percent, increase over the FY97 funding level of $617 million.
The Labor/HHS subcommittee recommended some funding increases above what President Clinton requested earlier this year. But some programs -- HIV prevention and titles II, IIIB, and IV of the Ryan White CARE Act -- would receive funding increases below the president's budget request. Also on July 15, a Senate appropriations subcommittee followed a House subcommittee's lead by voting for an $8 million FY98 funding increase for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program. The subcommittee's recommendation, which People With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

The subcommittee's recommendation, which matches President Clinton's budget request for HOPWA, would increase HOPWA's funding to $204 million in FY98. These actions came one day after the release of new AIDS mortality figures showing that access to health care services, promising AIDS drug therapies, and stable housing are keeping more people with HIV/AIDS alive longer. AIDS Action praised several subcommittee members -- especially subcommittee chairman Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.) -- for understanding the correlation between a sustained federal investment in AIDS research, prevention, housing, and care and the dramatic drop in AIDS deaths announced July 14.

Hutchison fails to offer compromise for discount purchase of drugs to treat life-threatening illnesses

Last week the Senate Treasury and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee voted to repeal the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA), under which state and local agencies could purchase products and services -- including prescription drugs -- at reduced prices that are currently available only to federal agencies. Undeterred, AIDS Action and partners lobbied members of Congress to accept a compromise allowing the discount purchase of prescription drugs for the treatment of life-threatening diseases, including HIV.

This hope was dashed July 17 when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who was to formally propose the compromise, decided against doing so. Most egregious about the "repeal FASA" campaign is that it defied a compromise agreed to earlier this month by a House-Senate Conference Committee calling for a moratorium on FASA's implementation through the end of this session of Congress. The moratorium was put in place so that hearings could be held over the summer.

The hearings would have allowed consumers and representatives of state and local governments an opportunity to speak to the merits of the program. However, the hearings did not happen. AIDS Action will continue its work on the FASA issue to ensure that beleaguered AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP's), public hospitals, and state and local health departments can purchase prohibitively expensive AIDS drugs at up to a 40 percent discount. State ADAP's face a budget shortfall of $132 million this fiscal year.

Lubinski to urge HIV/AIDS Advisory Council to demand movement on Medicaid expansion plan

AIDS Action Deputy Executive Director Christine Lubinski will meet with President Clinton's HIV/AIDS Advisory Council July 25-26 to discuss the importance of expanding Medicaid eligibility so that more people with HIV can access quality health care, including promising AIDS drug therapies. Lubinski hopes the advisory council will join AIDS Action in demanding that the Clinton administration fulfill the commitment made by Vice President Al Gore almost four months ago.

In proposing its Medicaid expansion initiative to Clinton administration officials, AIDS Action cited current Medicaid eligibility criteria as contradictory to AIDS clinical evidence and care standards, which call for early treatment of HIV disease. While over 53 percent of all Americans with AIDS rely on Medicaid for access to health care, many low-income people with HIV are denied that access. People with HIV are ineligible for Medicaid unless the Social Security Administration declares them disabled -- which usually follows diagnosis with full-blown AIDS. In April, Vice President Gore called on the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to report within 30 days on the feasibility of Medicaid expansion. That report has yet to be released.

Media queries related to AIDSfax items should be made to José Zuñiga, (202) 986-1300, Ext. 3042. All other queries should be made to Kurt Schade, (202) 986-1300, Ext. 3060.

AIDS Action: The National Voice on AIDS
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 986-1300.

For more information contact:
José Zuñiga
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3042
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.