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AIDS Action Network Fax

June 27, 1997

House subcommittee increases FY98 funding for Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program

Two days after AIDS Action brought people affected by HIV/AIDS to Washington, D.C., to advocate for increased AIDS program funding [see additional information below], a House appropriations subcommittee voted to increase fiscal year 1998 funding for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program. The HOPWA funding level agreed to by the Veterans Affairs/Housing and Urban Development (VA/HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee matches President Clinton's budget request of $204 million for FY98, or an $8 million increase over the FY97 funding level of $196 million. Thousands of people with HIV/AIDS and their families are able to secure stable, adequate housing through the HOPWA program.

While the additional funding for this housing program does not fully meet current needs, AIDS Action is celebrating the funding increase as a victory achieved in a time of budget retrenchment. A Senate appropriations subcommittee is expected to take up its version of the VA/HUD appropriations bill the week of July 14.

AIDS Action brings constituents to Capitol Hill to educate their elected officials about AIDS issues

For two days this week (June 23 & 24) eight people affected by HIV/AIDS exercised their right to meet with their elected officials in Washington and articulate the importance of maintaining the federal government's investment in the fight against AIDS. The two-day constituent education/advocacy days are a regular component of AIDS Action's community education and mobilization strategy. The focus of the June 23-24 constituent days was on the ongoing appropriations process, which will determine fiscal year 1998 funding levels for AIDS-specific and -related programs. Several of the constituents are people living with HIV/AIDS who benefit from the social services funded through the Ryan White CARE Act -- including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) -- and secure adequate housing through the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program. American Airlines, AIDS Action's official carrier, made air transportation possible for the eight constituents, one of whom came from as far away as Eau Claire, Wisc.

FDA 'reform' bill up for consideration after recess, Patients' Coalition hosts FDA media briefing July 7

After the July 4 recess, the Senate is set to vote on a bill aimed at amending the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, one of the nation's most important and fundamental pieces of consumer protection legislation. AIDS Action and other patient and consumer advocacy groups are vehemently opposed to the legislation, instead urging that Congress maintain a strong Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AIDS Action opposes the bill because it makes significant changes to the FDA that could jeopardize drug safety and, thus, endanger the lives of millions of Americans. AIDS Action is concerned that the bill proposes to lower safety and efficacy standards for new drugs. By presuming that one study for the approval of new drugs is sufficient, this bill micromanages scientific decisions and fails to require thorough clinical research by drug companies. There is no way to predict in advance how many clinical studies might be necessary to determine a drug's safety and usefulness. The FDA must maintain the flexibility to make informed scientific judgments and require the appropriate number of safety and efficacy trials before allowing companies to market drugs for serious diseases such as AIDS. In an attempt to air consumer perspectives on the FDA "reform" bill -- for which there were no public hearings -- the Patients' Coalition will host a media briefing at 10 a.m., July 7, at the National Press Club. The press conference will feature former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, a staunch supporter of a strong FDA, several consumer protection advocates, and consumers.

AIDS Action is a member of the Patients' Coalition.

Pharmaceutical, business lobby continues push for repeal of FASA, vital AIDS drug-purchasing program

According to Capitol Hill sources, Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.) is set to propose an amendment to the fiscal year 1998 Treasury/Postal appropriations bill which would repeal the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA). Under FASA, state and local agencies could purchase products and services -- including AIDS drugs -- at reduced prices that are currently available only to federal agencies. A compromise agreed to earlier this month by a House-Senate Conference Committee resulted in a moratorium on FASA's implementation through the end of this session of Congress. The moratorium was put in place in hopes that hearings on FASA could be held over the summer. The hearings would allow consumers and representatives of state and local governments an opportunity to speak to the merits of the program. However, the likelihood of such hearings, indeed future implementation of FASA and its drug-purchasing program is threatened by a "repeal FASA" coalition funded by the pharmaceutical industry and the business lobby. AIDS Action is fighting against FASA's repeal because FASA could allow beleaguered AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), public hospitals, and state and local health departments the opportunity to purchase AIDS drugs at up to a 40 percent discount. State ADAPs face a budget shortfall of $132 million this fiscal year.

AIDS Action deeply disappointed by Supreme Court decision against right to physician assisted suicide

AIDS Action was deeply disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday (June 26) against physician assisted suicide. Essentially, the Supreme Court ruled against empowering people with terminal diseases, including HIV, to exercise their fundamental right to make individual decisions about how they live with their disease, including their right to freely choose in a dignified and humane way the manner and time of their death. AIDS Action believes that the federal government should not interfere with an individual's exercise of the fundamental right to make his or her own decisions about life and death, decisions that should be made with the assistance of their physicians and other health care professionals.

AIDS Action's Zingale, Rep. Coburn promote voluntary HIV testing, differ on other AIDS issues

AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale and Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who are often locked in opposition on most AIDS-related issues, held a joint press conference Thursday (June 26) at the U.S. Capitol to promote the importance of anonymous, voluntary HIV testing. However, while the two agreed on the critical need for people to get voluntarily tested for HIV, their agreement ended there.

Zingale stressed to reporters the adverse effects of Coburn's "HIV Prevention Act of 1997." AIDS Action opposes the bill because it calls for the development of a national database of HIV-infected individuals without any tie-in to the health care system, holds state Medicaid funds hostage, and allows physicians to refuse treatment to patients who refuse to take an HIV test. Coburn acknowledged that he needs to hear from AIDS advocates before moving any further with the bill, and said he wants public hearings on his bill.

AIDS Action's 1997 State of AIDS Forum to define nation's debate around AIDS in 1997 and beyond

America's leaders in the fight against AIDS will convene in Washington, D.C., July 14 for a State of AIDS Forum that will both define and respond to the political, social and scientific challenges posed by an evolving epidemic. The forum comes at a time when the AIDS community is grappling with the implications of promising AIDS drug therapies, an historic decline in AIDS deaths, and the need to re-define our national and local response to AIDS. The forum will bring together chief executive officers of the nation's leading AIDS service providers, Clinton administration officials, public health and AIDS policy experts, clinicians, and people living with HIV and AIDS. Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for HIV, STD & TB Prevention, and Sandra Thurman, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, are both confirmed attendees. The forumbegins at 9 a.m. in the Main Ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Members of the media should contact AIDS Action's Kurt Schade at (202) 986-1300, Ext. 3060, for media credentials. Deadline is July 8.

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

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.