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AIDS Action Denounces House Passage of AIDS Acceleration Legislation

Anti-prevention provision nullifies promising mortality news

September 11, 1997

Contact: Steve Fisher
(202) 986-1300, Ext. 3065

WASHINGTON, DC -- In a tragic moment of classic Washington irony, the House today passed an anti-AIDS prevention provision within hours of a Centers for Disease Control announcement that AIDS deaths fell by 26 percent last year.

"As we stand at the most critical crossroad in the epidemic, the House today tragically held up a green light to increased AIDS deaths," said Daniel Zingale, Executive Director of AIDS Action. "Reversing this unprecedented drop in AIDS deaths would cost thousands of lives, millions of dollars and maintain Washington's reputation as the protectorate of the status quo."

AIDS Action strongly denounced House passage today of a federal needle exchange ban. The provision was successfully amended to the FY98 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill House by a vote of 266-158.

A needle exchange ban would increase the HIV infection rate among some of the most vulnerable populations, including minorities, women and children who depend heavily on Medicaid for health care. The irony is that Medicaid does not provide life-saving care for HIV infection until a beneficiary becomes sick with full-blown AIDS, when treatment is less successful and more expensive.

"The House acted in contradiction to overwhelming scientific data, the medical and public health community and basic common sense" added Zingale. "This grave act of irrationality could cost thousands of lives."

The needle exchange provision would ban all federal funding for federal, state and local programs that remove HIV-tainted needles from the streets, even when the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines such programs prevent HIV infection as well as ensure no increase in intravenous drug use. Needle exchange programs have the support of the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Bar Association and other organizations.

Despite House passage of the ban, the Senate version of the Labor-HHS bill, also passed on Thursday, did not include a similar provision. AIDS Action is working to ensure that House and Senate conferees will produce a compromise bill that deletes the House language.

* * *

AIDS Action is the nation's leading AIDS advocacy organization, representing all Americans affected by HIV/AIDS and over 2,000 community-based organizations that serve them.

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
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