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Bush Seeks 7% Boost in AIDS Fight, Touts Swift Test

February 01, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush said Friday he will ask Congress for a 7% increase in the money the United States spends to fight AIDS in what he called "a massive attempt to save lives."

Bush also announced his administration's expected approval of greatly expanded use of an HIV test that allows people to learn even before they've left the doctor's office if they are infected.

The steps follow Bush's call, made in his State of the Union address Tuesday, for a sharp increase in U.S. funds dedicated to the global battle against AIDS -- to $15 billion over the next five years.

Friday's event, held at the White House before scores of top health officials, AIDS activists and diplomats from AIDS-ravaged countries, was one of many this week designed to highlight Bush's domestic issues even as the president focuses on Iraq.

The spending request Bush is sending lawmakers Monday for the 2004 budget year will include $16 billion for the prevention and treatment of AIDS domestically, Bush said. Included are a $93-million increase for AIDS research and an extra $100 million for a program that pays for AIDS drugs for people lacking health coverage.

Citing the 40,000 new infections that occur each year in the United States, Bush said, "It's an issue we must continue to deal with."

Congress approved $14 billion in domestic AIDS-fighting money for 2002. Bush asked for $15 billion for the 2003 budget year, which began Oct. 1, but Congress has not yet completed the appropriations legislation that covers this year.

"It's critical that the president is recognizing the importance of increasing the domestic HIV/AIDS budget at the same time that he's moving aggressively to address the international pandemic," said Kate Carr, president of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Also Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services granted a waiver to the maker of OraQuick that will allow its use at an estimated 100,000 sites. The 20-minute HIV test received Food and Drug Administration approval in November for use in about 38,000 hospitals and large health clinics

With the waiver, the rapid HIV test could be administered in doctors' offices, mobile testing vans and even HIV counseling centers staffed by social workers instead of health professionals.

AIDS experts say the test is so easy to use it is expected to greatly cut the number of people who unknowingly carry and spread the disease -- in part by encouraging more people to get tested.

With today's routine tests taking up to two weeks to provide results, at least 8,000 people a year who test positive at public clinics never return to get the news.

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