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AIDS Action Weekly Update

September 20, 1996

Welcome to AIDS Action Council's Weekly Washington Update, an on-line newsletter 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.

Increase For HOPWA in VA-HUD Appropriations

Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program has been assured within the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R.3666). HOPWA, the only federal housing program for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, has been level funded at $171 million since rescissions in FY 95. Although the conference on the FY 97 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R.3666) was completed the night of September 19, the conference report has not been officially issued. However, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the increase for HOPWA is definite. The long overdue increase of $25 million will bring total FY 97 funding for this program to $196 million, and provide housing for an additional 6,725 individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Omnibus Appropriations Negotiations Underway

Congressional leaders and the Administration have begun negotiations to craft an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 1997. The omnibus bill will include a number of bills that Congress has been unable to complete due to election-year grid lock including the FY 97 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R.3755). While both the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills contain increases for AIDS programs, the Administration continues to push for additional increases for AIDS programs along with increases for a number of other important health and education programs. Republican leaders, anxious to return to their districts to campaign for re-election, are likely to accommodate the Administration's and Democrat's additional requests in order to complete the FY 97 appropriations process quickly. In order to ensure AIDS funding increases, AIDS advocates are contacting their members of Congress and the Administration to reiterate their support for increases. For further details regarding the minimum funding requests for AIDS programs, please see the 9/20/96 AIDS Action Alert . Immigration Reform Conference Report Raises Concerns

AIDS advocates have recently been informed of some troubling provisions within the conference agreement on the Immigration Reform bill (H.R.2022). While the bill overall is problematic, there are two provisions within the agreement that discriminate against individuals with HIV. Health care access for legal immigrants, which was dramatically restricted in the recently signed welfare reform bill, is further restricted within the immigration conference report. Under the new welfare bill, newly arriving legal immigrants are barred from receiving Medicaid for five years and limited to other federal and state public health programs for the testing and treatment of communicable diseases including HIV/AIDS.

The conference report of the Immigration Reform bill goes even further by explicitly denying medical care for legal immigrants who test positive for HIV. While legal immigrants may still access testing and treatment for all other communicable diseases they can only be tested, but not treated for HIV. In the case of undocumented persons, the welfare reform bill grants them access to federal and state public health services for the treatment of all communicable diseases. However, the Immigration Reform conference report also singles out HIV/AIDS and bars undocumented persons from both testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Because current federal immigration law already prohibits individuals who test positive for HIV from immigrating to the United States, the provisions barring legal immigrants from receiving treatment for HIV or AIDS will only affect those immigrants who contracted the virus while in the U.S.

AIDS advocates are outraged over this blatant discrimination as there is no logical public health or public policy argument for distinguishing HIV/AIDS from all other communicable diseases. The AIDS community is appealing to members of the conference committee to overturn this grossly unfair language. House conferees are Representatives Hyde (R-IL), Smith (R-TX), Gallegly (R-CA), McCollum (R-FL), Goodlatte (R-VA), Bryant (R-TN), Bono (R-CA), Conyers (R-MI), Frank (D-MA), Berman (D-CA), Bryant (R-TX), Becerra (D-CA), Goodling (R-PA), Cunningham (R-CA), McKeon (R-CA), Martinez (D-CA), Green (D-TX), Shaw (R-TX), and Jacobs (D-IN). Senate conferees are Senators Hatch (R-UT), Simpson (R-WY), Grassley (R-IA), Kyl (R-AZ), Specter (R-PA), Thurmond (R-SC), Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Simon (D-IL), Kohl (D-WI), and Feinstein (D-CA).

FDA Reform Dead This Year

Senate Labor and Human Resources Chair Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) has conceded that efforts to reform the Food and Drug Administration (S.1477) are dead this year. AIDS advocates and other patients groups were opposed to several provisions of this bill particularly those to arbitrarily impose deadlines on the FDA, allow dissemination of incomplete and possibly inadequate information to market drugs for unproven off-label uses, and permitting third-party review of drugs and medical devices. Although Senate Labor and Human Resources staffers assured those opposed to the bill for those reasons that changes were being made to the bill, those changes were never realized.

For more information contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

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