AIDS: White House Advisors Officially Declare No Confidence
President Clinton's AIDS advisory panel yesterday unanimously and officially "declared that it has 'no confidence' in the White House's commitment" to slow the spread of HIV infection, the Los Angeles Times reports (Cimons, 3/18). The advisers are also "accusing officials of playing politics with people's lives," the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. The council members approved a resolution stating, "The administration's current policy on needle-exchange programs threatens the public health, and directly contradicts current scientific evidence" (3/18). However, Clinton administration officials said they are awaiting proof that "needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use," and according to Laurie Boeder, a Health and Human Services spokesperson, the "results of the studies will not be available for several months" so "there is no timetable for announcing a decision."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Clinton joins former presidents in facing criticism from a federal AIDS panel. President Reagan's AIDS panel "blasted what they viewed as his failure to act aggressively to stem the epidemic in its early stages in this country." Clinton, however, is facing the "harshest attack yet" from AIDS advisers. While the "current attack" comes as "AIDS deaths have decreased among certain groups in recent years," the AIDS council noted that "new infections are not decreasing, especially among minorities," and that "nearly half of new reported infections are occurring among those who use needles to inject drugs." Ronald Johnson, a member of the White House AIDS panel and spokesperson for the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, said, "We will not stop new infections until we stop the spread of HIV that results from injecting drug use." Panel member Terje Anderson, who is executive director of the Southern Colorado AIDS Project, said, "As someone who knows firsthand the damage that drugs did in my life, I want to make clear that I am emphatically anti-drug and pro-treatment. We are not advocating programs that encourage people to use drugs" (3/18).