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AIDS Action Weekly Update

May 30, 1997

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter for Handsnet subscribers that reviews what is happening in Washington on AIDS policy issues each week. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at the e-mail address listed below.

Supplemental Appropriations Negotiations To Resume

Congress will return from recess, Monday, June 2, and will resume conference negotiations on the FY 97 supplemental appropriations bill. While the $68 million amendment for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has not been a part of conference negotiations thus far, there is still an opportunity for this to occur. AIDS advocates should continue to weigh-in with their members and the Administration in support of this vital funding.

Following passage of the supplemental appropriations bill and the budget resolution, appropriators can move forward in marking up their bills. The VA-HUD and Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee mark ups may take place before the July 4th recess. AIDS advocates still have the opportunity to encourage their members of Congress to support the highest possible funding levels for federal AIDS programs.

CDC Revisits HIV Surveillance Policy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists hosted a consultation meeting last week to examine the goals of HIV surveillance in the U.S. including a close examination of the future direction of HIV surveillance. Currently there are no federal mandates on HIV reporting. Proponents of HIV surveillance argue that as AIDS incidence decreases and HIV seroprevalence, the number of individuals living with HIV, increases it will be necessary to track trends in new infections and to assist in determining the efficacy of prevention interventions in these populations. Others argue that identifying individuals with HIV will result in at-risk persons not coming forward to be tested for fear of breach of confidentiality and discrimination, thus not allowing for an accurate picture of the epidemic. Currently 29 states implement some form of HIV infection surveillance. The consultation meeting also looked at other methods of tracking HIV incidence such as unique identifiers which would use a code rather than a person's name, and also counteract double counting for those who chose to be tested more than once.

The CDC will conduct another consultation meeting to examine partner notification and the impact on HIV prevention efforts. The meeting will be held in Atlanta, June 17-18.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus's AIDS Briefing

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is sponsoring a briefing, Monday, June 2, on the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on communities of color in this country and a broad overview of current HIV/AIDS policy. The discussion will be led by AIDS Project Los Angeles and AIDS Action Council and will focus on the impact of the new drug therapies, needle exchange programs as a means of HIV prevention, and the HIV/AIDS legislative agenda for the 105th Congress. HIV/AIDS has disproportionately affected communities of color with over 52 percent of all reported AIDS cases through the end of 1996 occurring in African Americans and Hispanics. For additional information about the briefing, contact Julio Abreu of AIDS Action, 202-986-1300, ext. 3021.

Reps. Bilbray And Foley Testify On Behalf Of AIDS Programs

Representatives Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Mark Foley (R-FL) testified before their colleagues of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on the need for a continued strong federal commitment to AIDS research, prevention, and care programs. While both members' testimonies focused on the hope provided by the new combination drug therapies, they also acknowledged the necessity of a comprehensive federal approach to all AIDS programs. AIDS Action Council, which testified before the subcommittee several weeks ago, assisted the members with their testimonies. Representative Foley summed up his remarks by stating, "I know our need is great...the new drugs are giving us hope that this war is winnable, but like any war, we need the resources to win."

SAMHSA National Advisory Council Meeting

A panel on integrating substance abuse/mental health and HIV was convened during the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Advisory Council meeting on May 29, 1997. The panelists were: Sandy Thurman, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; Helene Gayle, Director of the National Center for HIV, STD, TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control; Beri Hull, Community Education Coordinator from the National Association of People with AIDS; and Robert Washington, Executive Director of the St. Francis Center. In her opening remarks, Nelba Chavez, Administrator of SAMHSA commented on the possibility of SAMHSA block grants being changed to Performance Partnership grants with the goal of increasing flexibility for states. This change would allow states to determine program priorities and funding levels versus federal oversight of block grants. Personal testimony, as well as statistics presented point to the need for a continuum of care which needs t o be integrated into a medical delivery system for people with HIV who need substance abuse and mental health treatment. Harm reduction was emphasized as a necessary element of this continuum. One of the biggest hurdles for treatment of substance abuse is the lack and expense of drug treatment slots. Dr. Washington concluded the presentation by stating that needle exchange and sex education programs are effective prevention components.

For more information, contact:
Lisa White
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.