Bush to Maintain Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
The Bush administration will maintain the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS -- a panel established under former President Clinton -- combining the council with President Bush's Cabinet-level AIDS task force to address 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 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 non-partisanship and a political milestone in the lives of those infected or at risk of infection with HIV" (McQueen, AP/Nando Times, 7/20).
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;
- 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).
"Our original report and these new recommendations provide a blueprint for action to the new administration," Dellums stated. White House Office of National AIDS Policy Director Scott Evertz "met with the council briefly and expressed the administration's commitment to continue some form of citizen participation in its formulation of HIV/AIDS policies" and also stated that the task force chaired by Thompson and Powell was scheduled to meet Friday afternoon (PACHA release, 7/20). The previous and current PACHA reports are available online.
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