This Week in Washington
Leach Introduces Global Fund Bill
On Thursday, March 14, Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) introduced legislation that will significantly accelerate the process through which funds are utilized by the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. H.R. 3975 allows for a special draw down, over three years, from the U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be put directly towards Global Fund programs at the World Bank. This special draw down could make available approximately $1.2 billion per year for three years. The bill also requires the Secretary of the Treasury to seek negotiations with other nations to increase their contributions to the Fund. So far, the United States leads the world in contributions with a commitment of approximately $500 million over two years. To learn more about H.R. 3975: http://thomas.loc.gov/
Bush Announces "Millennium Challenge Account"
On March 14, President Bush announced a new commitment by the United States to increase development assistance to impoverished nations by $5 billion over the next three budget cycles. This commits new money, in addition to the funds being allocated to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. The fund, titled "The Millennium Challenge Account," will help to expand efforts to fight AIDS through economic and public health infrastructure development. Further, in order to avoid the debilitating effects of loan interest payments faced by many impoverished nations, funds from the new account will be allocated to nations in the form of grants, not loans. The President also laid a challenge to other developed nations to increase their support to the World Bank with a goal of doubling the size of the world's poorest economies within a decade. To read the President's statement: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020314-7.html
Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS Convenes First Meeting
AIDS Action's government relations and policy staff attended the first meeting of President Bush's "President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS," a two-day council meeting which was held at the White House Conference Center on March 14 and 15. There was consensus among PACHA members, including co-chair Dr. Tom Coburn, that more leadership on HIV/AIDS issues was needed from the highest levels of the Bush Administration. The majority of the PACHA meeting was focused on presentations from federal officials, educating PACHA members on the current state of the epidemic. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Council agreed to work on four possible recommendations for the Secretary of Health and Human Services that could include:
- Increase the United States' contribution to the Global AIDS fund.
- Increase AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) funding and identify cost-efficiencies to expand access to the program.
- Waive the budget neutrality provision required by 1115 Medicaid Waivers as it prohibits states from proactively seeking expansion of Medicaid coverage for those living with HIV.
- Active support by the Bush Administration for the enactment of the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), which expands Medicaid coverage for those living with HIV.
The Council discussed convening three additional Council meetings this year, as well as the need to have a presence at the United States Conference on AIDS in September.
NIH Outlines Bioterrorism Funding for FY 2003
On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) outlined in the agency's plans for spending the $1.2 billion in bioterrorism research funding in the "National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Counter-Bioterrorism Research Agenda." The funding is part of President Bush's fiscal year 2003 budget request, and is part of the President's total NIH request of $3.4 billion which completes the five-year congressional goal of doubling research funding at NIH. At the recent Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS meeting, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that much of the funding and associated research earmarked for bioterrorism would have significant impact on other disease research such as HIV/AIDS.
In the News
FDA Changes Drug Testing Rule
On Tuesday, March 19, the Washington Post
reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was planning to eliminate the federal requirement for testing for efficacy and safety of drugs for children. Due to the difficulty and cost of testing drugs on children, drugs were primarily tested on adults. The FDA reported that the rule would be suspended for two years while the Administration conducted research to see if the rule was still necessary. To read the entire article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47229-2002Mar18.html
Pfizer Announces Two-Year Price Freeze for ADAP Drug
Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS member, Hank McKinnell, announced at last week's Council meeting that Pfizer would freeze for two years the price of its AIDS drug Viracept for the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Mr. McKinnell serves as the Chairman and CEO of Pfizer and also is the sitting Chairman of PhRMA, the national pharmaceutical association. It is estimated that approximately half of the $50 million increase in ADAP funding in FY 2002 went to inflationary increases, and not the expansion of access to life-prolonging drugs. Currently 10 states and territories have ADAP waiting lists, client expenditure caps and/or drug access restrictions. These states and territories include Alabama, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.
HRSA Announces Training and Technical Assistance for Third-Party Reimbursement
The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that they will be holding a Technical and Training Assistance meeting around issues of Third-Party Reimbursement designed to help organizations increase revenues from third party sources such as Medicaid, State Children's Health Insurance Programs, Medicare, and private insurance. HRSA grantees and sub-grantees, including Ryan White CARE Act grantees, are required to pursue third-party payment; however, not all organizations are taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by this program. This meeting will take place in Lansing, Michigan on April 29-30, 2002. THERE IS NO REGISTRATION FEE to participate. Informational sessions will focus on billing and coding, reimbursement infrastructure, collection and implementing new techniques. For more information and the registration process, go to: http://www.hrsa.gov/tpr
Healthcare for Minorities Unequal
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, released on Wednesday March 20, indicated that minorities, even those with private health insurance, receive a lower quality health care than whites in comparable income brackets. In comparison to health care that is given to whites, the lower quality health care contributes to higher death rates and shorter lifespan. While this problem has long been acknowledged within the field of HIV/AIDS, it is the first time that the problem has been recognized outside a context of heath disparities and access to care. The report noted that the widest discrepancies were found in the areas with the most consequential health outcomes -- cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer and diabetes. Specifically noted are the fact that African Americans, Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives were much less likely to receive highly technical and advanced treatments such as angioplasty, antiretroviral combination therapy or organ transplantations. The IOM panel of experts that authored the report did offer many recommendations, although many are nonspecific. For more information: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58893-2002Mar20.html
Board Member Highlight
The AIDS Action Council Board of Directors consists of local HIV/AIDS service providers throughout the United States. Each week, the Update
will highlight one of these service providers and the work they are doing to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their region.
AID Atlanta, now in its 20th year, is the oldest and largest AIDS service provider in the Southeast United States. The AID Atlanta mission is to provide a broad, compassionate range of HIV/AIDS services through the continuous support of donors, volunteers and friends. Anthony J. Braswell, Executive Director of AID Atlanta, is also the Chair of the AIDS Action Council and leads a diverse team of case managers in Atlanta that assist clients in virtually every aspect of their lives, including: prevention, housing, nutrition, medication counseling, social support, risk reduction, mental health services and instructions on how to receive essential care with a limited income. To learn more about AID Atlanta, please visit: http://www.aidatlanta.org.