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AIDS Action Weekly Update

March 21, 1997

House And Senate Out On Easter Recess

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn for Easter recess so that members may return to their home districts and states. AIDS advocates should take this opportunity to schedule meetings with their representatives or invite them to visit local AIDS service organizations in order to impress upon them the continued need for a strong federal response to the AIDS epidemic. For those with appropriators in their districts, an important message is that funding increases for all AIDS programs in research, care, prevention, and housing are critical in order to preserve and protect the lives of individuals infected and affected by HIV. Although the GOP has not produced a viable budget, appropriators will begin working on their bills following the recess, with mark-up expected to occur by late May. The Senate is due to return April 7 and the House will return April 8.

Coburn Bill Opposition

Representative Tom Coburn's (R-OK) HIV Prevention Act of 1997 (H.R. 1062), which is largely opposed by the AIDS community, could be losing ground in Congress as well. Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) is withdrawing his name from the sponsor list, and AIDS advocates will work to educate other members to keep them from signing on, or for those who have signed on, to convince them to withdraw their support. The bill contains a number of punitive provisions that have nothing to do with actual HIV prevention. Many of the "test and report" provisions contained in the Coburn bill could, in fact, undermine local efforts to curtail the spread of the disease by discouraging people wary of discrimination from coming forward to find out their HIV status and seek early intervention services.

A Senate companion bill will be introduced by Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) following the Easter recess. It is critical that AIDS advocates inform their members of congress of the negative consequences of this legislation and dissuade them from signing onto it.

Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act Introduced In House And Senate A bill to compensate members of the hemophilia community and their families affected by HIV has been introduced in the House and the Senate. The Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund Act (S. 358 in the Senate, H.R. 1023 in the House), which was originally introduced during the 104th Congress, establishes a trust fund from which people with hemophilia who contracted HIV through the use of blood products, or their survivors, could receive a one-time payment of $125,000 in compassionate assistance. The Senate bill was introduced February 26 by Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Bob Graham (D-FL) and referred to the Labor and Human Resources Committee. Representative Porter Goss (R-FL) introduced the bill in the House on March 11. As of this writing the House bill, which was referred to the Committees on the Judiciary, Commerce, and Ways and Means, has 162 cosponsors. The legislation is named after a Florida teenager who died of AIDS related complications at the age of 15 in December of 1992.

Protease Inhibitors Approved For Children

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to two pharmaceutical companies to market their protease inhibitors to children. Abbott Laboratories will make Norvir, one of the first-generation protease inhibitors that has been shown to have a positive impact in the lives of AIDS patients, available to children between the ages of 2 - 16. Norvir was cleared for marketing for adult use March 1, 1996. Safety of Norvir in children below the age of 2 has not been established. Agouron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was also granted approval by the FDA to market VIRACEPT, the first protease inhibitor to be cleared for marketing simultaneously for adults and children. Protease inhibitors which became available to the general public last year, have, for many individuals with HIV, been able to lower the viral load, the amount of virus in the blood stream, to undetectable levels. While not a cure, these promising new drugs have had a dramatic, positive, impact on the quality and length of life of many people living with HIV/AIDS.

For more information, contact:
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3053
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.