WASHINGTON — A Senate subcommittee Wednesday criticized Assistant Secretary of Health Robert E. Windom for seeking too small an increase in federal dollars for AIDS research and education.
Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Windom said the Public Health Service had requested $534 million for AIDS projects, including $110 million in fiscal 1988 for educational programs intended to stop the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The request represented a 28.5% increase over the 1987 appropriation of $415.6 million.
Committee Chairman Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) pointed out that "since we have no vaccine for AIDS, no cure and no mandatory testing for the disease, education is our only tool."
An Aggressive Plan?
"Do you really think we're talking about an aggressive education plan" at the requested level of funding? Chiles said.
Windom said he saw the federal money as the trigger for further efforts by states, local governments and volunteer organizations.
"Our $110-million educational program is multiplied 10 times or more" by the help of volunteer organizations like the Red Cross, Windom said.
Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) reminded Windom of a report by the National Academy of Sciences that said total spending on AIDS education would have to amount to $1 billion by 1990 to halt the disease.
"The way I view it," Weicker said, "that means we should be spending $300 million a year for the next three years."
Total U.S. Spending
Windom said he thought the academy report referred to total spending in the country, not just federal dollars.
"I don't want the United States to try to spend more than we can effectively spend on a program--be it (President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative) or this research," Windom said.
The report, issued in October by a group of scientists convened by the academy, said: "The committee estimates that by the end of the decade, approximately $1 billion annually, much of it from federal sources, will be needed for education and other public health measures" such as blood screening and voluntary testing.
Weicker also criticized the Health and Human Services Department's budget for cutting $300 million from biomedical research.
Cuts in Research
"What sense is there in cutting basic biomedical research at a time when you're increasing AIDS funding?" Weicker asked. He said the National Academy of Sciences study had said that it was important that AIDS research dollars be new appropriations rather than dollars pulled from research that is not directly related to the disease.
Windom said that by 1990 AIDS could cost the country $8 billion to $16 billion per year. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there will be 270,000 cases of AIDS and a total of 179,000 AIDS deaths by 1991.
AIDS, considered fatal, is caused by a virus that is passed in blood and through intimate sexual contact.