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AIDS Action Weekly Update

May 9, 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.

Balanced Budget Details

As budget negotiations continue Congressional leaders are getting ready to begin crafting their annual Budget Resolution. Hoping to have completed work on the Resolution, a blueprint which provides general guidance and overall funding levels to the 13 appropriation subcommittees, by the Memorial Day recess (beginning on May 22), the Resolution will contain many of the elements of the budget agreement announced last week. The agreement included over $335 billion in spending cuts. $200 billion in cuts to entitlement programs include deep cuts in Medicare ($115 billion) and $15-17 billion in Medicaid (much of it coming from Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments. Although the per-capita-cap proposal was dropped from the agreement, many people living with HIV/AIDS rely on DSH for their care, and as people are living longer, more people living with HIV/AIDS rely on Medicare for their health care also. The agreement also calls for $61 billion in cuts to domestic discretionary programs over the next five years which include programs for people living with HIV/AIDS like Ryan White and HOPWA.

Automatic Continuing Resolution Remains

The Senate last night voted to pass the $8.4 billion supplemental spending bill including the controversial automatic continuing resolution (CR). The automatic CR, which the president has threatened to veto unless it provides funding at levels agreed to in the budget agreement, is certain to weigh heavily in negotiations as the House takes it up next week. While 100 percent of current Fiscal Year totals (up from 98 percent last week) would be provided in the event that any of the 13 appropriations bills fail to pass Congress by the start of the new fiscal year, many congressional Democrats argue that an automatic CR would result in a five percent shortfall from what was promised in last weeks budget agreement resulting in $25 billion in cuts in domestic discretionary programs. This would include HIV/AIDS programs like Ryan White, prevention at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program, and research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Advocates worry that such cuts will seriously affect programs which are already struggling to keep pace with the increasing demands being placed on them. It is also feared that without the threat of government shut-down, Congressional Republicans will drag their feet during the appropriations process, a delay that would surely result in drastic cuts to HIV/AIDS programs presented by the automatic CR. AIDS Advocates should call their congressional representatives to encourage them to oppose the inclusion of an automatic CR. The congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

The Coburn Bill Slowly Gains Support

The Coburn Bill has gained additional cosponsors bringing the total to 88. Two members of the House have officially come off the bill, Representatives Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV), with about a dozen more who are reconsidering their position. Although support is slow, strong opposition must continue to be voiced. While it appears unlikely that the bill will pass as a whole, there is a danger of individual provisions of the bill being enacted by getting attached to appropriations or authorization bills. The appropriations process is picking up speed, offering more opportunity for provisions to be taken out and attached to other legislation. AIDS advocates are encouraged to contact their representatives and tell them to continue to oppose the bill and object to any individual provisions being attached to funding bills.

Bipartisan Support Letters For Increased HIV/AIDS Funding

Two bipartisan efforts began on Capitol Hill asking Members to sign-on to letters urging the Chairmen of both the House Labor-HHS-Education (L/HHS) and Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Development (VA/HUD) Appropriations Subcommittees for increased funding for federal AIDS programs. The letter to John Porter (R-IL), chair of the L/HHS subcommittee, originally sponsored by Republicans Connie Morella (MD), Christopher Shays (CT), Rick Lazio (NY), James Leach (IA), and Mark Foley (FL) and Democrats Barbara Kennelly (CT), Henry Waxman (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), Nydia Velazquez (NY), and William Delahunt (MA) urge Mr. Porter to increase funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and research programs. While citing the amounts needed by these programs, the letter urges him to provide increases above the Administration's request. In a similar letter to Jerry Lewis (R-CA), original sponsors Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Connie Morella (R-MD) urge the chairman to seek increases for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program over what the president had earlier requested. Currently, 63 Representatives have signed onto the Housing letter. AIDS advocates should encourage their representatives to sign on to these letters. Ask your Representative to contact Cindy Hall (202-225-4341) or Mark Agrast (202-225-3111) before May 21 in regards to the L/HHS letter to Porter and Cindy Hall and Zachary Katznelson (202-225-5635) in regards to the Housing letter to Lewis.

Workshop Evaluates Antiretroviral Therapy In Perinatal Transmission

The Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce the Risk of Perinatal Transmission Workshop, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was held to review and update the 1994 recommendations on the use of AZT to reduce the risk of perinatal HIV transmission. It is recognized that there are two distinct issues involved in antiretroviral treatment for pregnant women:

1) the use of antiretrovirals for maternal health indications, and

2) the use of antiretroviral for reducing the perinatal HIV transmission risk.

The main focus of the workshop will be the use of antiretroviral drugs for the reduction of perinatal transmission. The Public Health Service has recently developed guidelines which focus on antiretroviral therapy for maternal health indications. These guidelines indicate that pregnancy should not preclude the use of optimal HIV therapeutic treatments. A diverse group of participants will be attending, including women who participated in the 076 studies as part of the review panel.

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.