The National Commission on AIDS, in its second report issued Tuesday, continues to give sorely needed leadership to the nation's response to the epidemic. But the commission acknowledges that its efforts will not be enough unless President Bush himself does more.
Presidential action is needed to create a mechanism to improve federal interagency coordination of efforts to contain the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. The commission praised the President for his eloquent and constructive address of March 29--praise well-deserved. "Now the President's commitment needs translation into action," the report concluded.
In addition, the commission supported two important pieces of federal legislation, $600 million in emergency funds for HIV-impacted areas plus broadened protections against discrimination included in the Americans With Disabilities Act that has been endorsed by Bush and passed by the Senate. Furthermore, the commission urged federal leadership in providing housing for the homeless, many of them infected with HIV.
The commission appealed to governments at all levels to lift restrictions on effective AIDS education and prevention programs. And it appeared to allude to the refusal of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year to approve a proposal of the county AIDS Commission to distribute condoms and bleach to intravenous drug users as a means of educating them on risks of spreading HIV through shared needles and sexual relations. "In Los Angeles, the commission was deeply troubled by the hamstringing restrictions on the use of public dollars imposed by the elected officials" limiting "efforts that could prevent further spread of the epidemic in a county with the second highest number of reported cases of AIDS in the United States." We hope Los Angeles County won't turn a deaf ear to these pointed words from the commission.