AIDS research

As the first member of Congress to broach the subject of AIDS on the floor of the House back in 1985, I appreciate your interest in addressing this issue. There is indeed a role for the federal government concerning AIDS research. You will be pleased to know that in this year alone, the federal government will spend an estimated $2.5 billion on AIDS research and prevention. That's far more than will be spent on cancer, heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer's research. This despite the fact that cancer is responsible for 12 times as many deaths as AIDS and heart disease is responsible for more than 18 times as many deaths.

I have often wondered if the American people really truly grasp the enormity of this fact: in total, 360,000 Americans have suffered and died of AIDS! That's more dead than World War II, the biggest killing in all of history, which resulted in 292,131 combat killed-in-action deaths. Its even more than our war between the States -- the Civil War -- which took 214,938 in combat deaths. I know I can't fully absorb the enormity of that level of suffering, let alone the fact that worldwide, in just 3 years, 60 million people will be infected with the AIDS virus. What a ghastly way to begin the third millennia!

By the year 2000, the AIDS plague will have cost our national economy about $107 billion. It has already cost us over $75 billion, about $35 billion of that in research. Since 1986, insurance claims involving AIDS have increased more than 400 percent totaling an estimated $9.4 billion! Children orphaned by AIDS will reach 4 million youngsters worldwide by the year 2000--80,000 in the United States alone. That's 4 million innocent babies, toddlers and other precious children of tender age left without both parents! For these reasons, I have always supported funding for AIDS research, and also for treatment and medical care for those afflicted with this deadly disease.

As you know, Congress recently passed the Ryan White CARE Act Amendments, which was signed into law by the President on May 20, 1996. This legislation reauthorized and revised programs established by the original act. While I disagreed with certain aspects of the bill, I supported it because, among other provisions, it does a tremendous amount of good in terms of offering health care for the most innocent victims of AIDS -- preborn and newborn babies. Medical technology today enables us to greatly reduce the chance that a HIV-positive mother will pass HIV on to her newborn if she receives proper treatment prior to delivery. The Ryan White bill provides $10 million to help states meet Center for Disease Control guidelines for voluntary HIV testing, counseling, and treatment for pregnant women. I believe that this provision will go a long way in preventing the perinatal transmission of HIV infection. I also believe it will result in more infants receiving the care they need should they be determined at risk of contracting AIDS. In fact, we now have a treatment that prevents, two-thirds of the time, infection in the baby from a mother who might be carrying the HIV virus. We should not shrink back from this opportunity.

You may be interested to know that I recently met with Dr. Toni Fauci, one of our very best researchers at the National Institutes of Health, to discuss the new, advanced HIV treatment involving IL2, Interluken 2. While it is not a cure or vaccine, it does present itself as a promising, life-extending treatment for those suffering the tragedy of AIDS.

Please know that I firmly believe we should continue to fight AIDS on a national level. Past successes against diseases such as polio prove that the federal government can and should work to eradicate afflictions that kill Americans. I will do what I can to see that AIDS research, in particular, is properly supported.

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