Delivered at the National HIV Treatment
& Drug Access Conference in Washington, D.C.
It is an understatement to say that AIDS advocates everywhere anxiously await the discovery of a cure for HIV disease or, short of that, virus-crippling drugs that drastically improve the lives of those infected by this insidious virus.
This explains our excitement at the recent addition of protease inhibitors to the growing armamentarium of therapeutic agents. However, we must remain mindful of the sad reality that AIDS is an impoverishing disease, that these exciting new drugs are prohibitively expensive, and that because of inequities in our health care system today most Americans living with AIDS cannot take advantage of scientific breakthroughs that could better their quality of life. We urge Congress, as a first step measure, to pass legislation appropriating $52 million in emergency Ryan White CARE Act funds to patch the leaky boat that is the 50-state network of AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) -- most of which do not now cover protease inhibitors.
Again, the appropriation of these emergency funds is but a first step measure in dealing with this serious problem. There are ongoing debates over Medicaid and other vital social programs that are really debates to define our societal obligation to each other. This country needs to have honest discussion about the sharing of social responsibility and social obligations when Congress irresponsibly proposes gutting Medicaid and eliminating the guarantee to basic health care and life-saving drugs that this program has come to represent to more than half of all Americans living with AIDS. The same discussion must take place when drug companies set prices for their new drugs that literally ensure that these drugs will collect dust on pharmacy shelves because people with AIDS cannot afford their purchase. Above all, society, our government and corporate America must realize that bringing about an end to the AIDS epidemic, or easing the suffering of those already infected, includes not only scientific breakthroughs, but also breakthroughs in political and public mindsets for a commitment to 3/18l-being of all Americans.
Founded in 1984, AIDS Action Council is the only national organization devoted solely to advocating on federal AIDS policy, legislation, and funding. AIDS Action represents more than 1,400 community-based AIDS service organizations nationwide.
For more information, contact
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009