Bush Administration to Maintain Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
The Bush administration will maintain the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS -- a panel created under former President Clinton -- and combine it with President Bush's Cabinet-level AIDS task force for joint work on the administration's AIDS agenda, AP/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said on Friday that he recommended the continuation of the panel, whose governing rules were set to expire this year, saying, "I was very pleased with the passion and dedication of everyone involved. We are really stepping forward with our continued commitment in this national and international fight against the AIDS pandemic. This decision will allow us to be able to best continue that." Thompson said that several panel members whose terms had not expired would stay on, including former Rep. Ronald Dellums, who chairs the 30-member council. Bush will also make some new appointments to the panel (AP/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 7/22).
Some AIDS activists and legislators had questioned whether Bush would disband the panel, following his April announcement that he would reorganize the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy and his appointments of Thompson and Secretary of State Colin Powell to lead a Cabinet-level task force to examine domestic and international AIDS issues. Although Bush has said that he wants to bring more attention to AIDS, activists have criticized his domestic policies on the disease, including his decision to hold funding for the Ryan White CARE Act at current levels in his FY 2002 budget. Former PACHA Director Daniel Montoya said, "The decision to maintain continuity on the commission demonstrates a clear spirit of nonpartisanship and a political milestone in the lives of those infected or at risk of infection with HIV" (McQueen, AP/Nando Times, 7/20).
New Recommendations Released
The PACHA on Friday released follow-up recommendations to a previous PACHA report presented in September to former President Clinton that suggested U.S. action on domestic and international HIV/AIDS issues. The original report also was presented to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson during a May meeting between the administration and the advisory council. The panel states in the new recommendations, "[W]e present these recommendations to HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, and through him to President George W. Bush. We do so in a spirit of ongoing commitment to ending the pandemic and human suffering caused by HIV/AIDS." The panel made the following recommendations:
- Increase from $357 million in FY 2001 to $540 million in FY 2002 funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative;
- Increase appropriations for domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs in FY 2002;
- Support the Early Treatment for HIV Act of 2001 (HR 2063) (PACHA report, 7/20). The Early Treatment Act, introduced in June by Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), would expand Medicaid coverage to low-income people with HIV before a diagnosis of AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/6).
- Prioritize HIV vaccine and microbicide development and distribution;
- Increase leadership within the administration on the international effort to end HIV/AIDS;
- Introduce a provision of "comprehensive sexuality education programs that incorporate detailed, age-appropriate content consistent with the sound public health research presented in the Surgeon General's 'Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior'" (PACHA report, 7/20).
AIDS groups on Friday reacted to the PACHA's report with support, urging Bush to act upon the recommendations. Fred Dillon, policy director for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said, "This set of recommendations provides the Bush administration with a solid blueprint on how our nation could truly make progress in ending the HIV pandemic," adding that "[u]nfortunately, the Bush administration has thus far been unwilling to take many of the steps outlined by the Council, as demonstrated by a proposed FY 2002 budget that flat-funds many crucial HIV programs." Dillon said that the SFAF "hope[s]" that the recommendations provide "an impetus for a more effective approach in the future" (SFAF release, 7/20). AIDS Project Los Angeles Executive Director Craig Thompson said that the report's recommendations are "core to fighting this pandemic head on" (APLA release, 7/20). And the AIDS Foundation of Chicago "congratulat[ed]" PACHA on the report, saying that the recommendations are "concrete steps" that the government "can and should" take to fight HIV/AIDS (AFC release, 7/20). The previous and current PACHA reports are available online.