AIDS Action Weekly Update
March 28, 1997
Coburn Companion Bill Introduced In The Senate
A companion bill to Representative Tom Coburn's (R-OK) HIV Prevention Act of 1997 (H.R. 1062) was introduced in the Senate last week by Senator Don Nickles (R-OK). The Nickles bill (S. 503) appears to be identical to the Coburn bill with the exception that it does not amend Title XIX (the Medicaid law) of the Social Security Act in order to force states to comply with the provisions of the bill as the Coburn bill does. AIDS advocates oppose both bills as neither does anything to further the community-based prevention efforts that have been effective in changing risk behaviors and significantly reducing the transmission of HIV in a cost effective manner. Instead, AIDS advocates argue, they both contain coercive measures that have been repeatedly demonstrated to discourage individuals at risk for HIV-infection from seeking appropriate counseling and testing and push the epidemic even further underground. In addition, according to state health officials and state AIDS directors, the bills would necessitate a minimum of 265 statutory or regulatory changes across the country and cost states approximately $420 million to implement. AIDS advocates are encouraged to contact their members of congress and dissuade them from endorsing either piece of legislation.
Pelosi-Morella HIV Prevention Bill
As a response to the Coburn bill Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Constance Morella (R-MD) introduced the Comprehensive HIV Prevention Act of 1997 (H.R. 1219) Friday, March 21. The Pelosi-Morella bill essentially codifies HIV Prevention Community Planning which states and communities are currently implementing. The bill also responds to the growing challenge of HIV infection among women by authorizing prevention services through family planning clinics, community health centers, substance abuse treatment programs, and other primary care settings. In addition, one of the provisions of the bill provides for counseling and treatment of survivors of sexual assault. The Pelosi-Morella bill has over 100 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Commerce Committee.
AZT Proven Effective In Reducing Perinatal Hiv Transmission In Women With Advanced AIDS
A recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study showed that the administration of AZT to pregnant women with advanced AIDS is an effective means of reducing perinatal HIV transmission. A prior study which demonstrated a reduction in the HIV transmission rate from mother to child in women who had received AZT involved relatively healthy women whose immune systems had not yet been heavily damaged by the virus. Scientists speculated that AZT would not be as effective in women with more advanced AIDS, but the current study which was actually intended to test a different theory proved otherwise. The study, which began in 1993, involved women with T-cell counts below 500, with nearly a quarter of participants having T-cell counts below 200 and was intended to determine the effectiveness of HIV immune globulin in reducing the rate of HIV perinatal transmission. While the results were inconclusive regarding the benefit of HIV immune globulin, a blood product with antibodies that attack HIV, they did show a decrease in the rate of perinatal transmission for the women who received AZT even those who were at a more advanced stage of the disease. There remain some concerns, however, over the longer term effects of AZT on women and their children. These children will be closely monitored over the years to determine any negative side affects of this therapy.
President Appoints Commission To Address Health Care Issues
In a response to the growing concerns surrounding managed care plans, President Clinton has appointed a commission to address issues regarding protection of patients from arbitrary rules and to guarantee that quality health care is not put in jeopardy for profits. The newly-created Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry has been charged by the president with developing a "Consumer Bill of Rights" which will lay the groundwork for federal or state laws or as a possible set of standards for insurance plans. Among the issues to be covered in the "Consumer Bill of Rights" will be language insuring that physicians discuss all medical options with their patients and are not provided incentives for withholding more expensive care from patients. An encouraging sign to the AIDS community was the appointment of longtime AIDS advocate Nan D. Hunter to the commission. AIDS advocates along with consumer and provider organizations nationwide are calling on the commission to recommend uniform standards to protect all consumers, whether they are covered under Medicare, Medicaid or employer benefit plans.
Bilbray Bill To Amend The Fair Housing Act
Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) has introduced a bill that would amend the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to give local, state, or federal officials complete discretion to restrict the ability of individuals in recovery from drug dependence to reside as a group in a single family dwelling. The bill would accomplish this by removing from the reach of the FHA any ordinance that restricts the number of unrelated individuals permitted to live in a single family dwelling or the proximity of dwellings that are occupied by the following: a convicted felon, sex offender, or recovering drug addict. Of the targeted groups, recovering drug addicts are currently protected under the FHA. If enacted, this legislation, H.R. 589, would allow states and localities to discriminatorily exclude group recovery homes from all single family dwellings, limiting the options of these groups to reside in low-risk environments. These group homes are essential to maintaining a clean and sober living for many recovering addicts, and disrupting the living situations of the individuals who reside in them could prove to be a major setback in their lives. As many individuals living with HIV/AIDS are recovering drug addicts, this legislation has major implications for the AIDS community. H.R. 589 was introduced February 7 of this year and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.