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Coburn Hearing To Focus on GAO Report Examining Disparities in AIDS Treatment

Location: Washington, DC

Coburn Hearing To Focus on GAO Report Examining Disparities in AIDS Treatment

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, will hold a hearing Wednesday, April 26, titled, "Ensuring Early Diagnosis and Access to Treatment for HIV/AIDS: Can Federal Resources Be More Effectively Targeted?" The hearing will examine the findings of a new Government Accountability Office report analyzing disparities between state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) that will likely be released at the hearing and also will discuss how to better target federal resources to improve access to both diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

The federal government spends more than $20 billion on HIV/AIDS prevention, care and research annually. Yet more than one million Americans are now living with HIV/AIDS and up to 59 percent of these individuals are not in regular care. Furthermore, more than 40,000 Americans become newly infected with HIV every year. More than a quarter of those who are infected do not know it. Thousands of patients requiring critical care are on waiting lists for AIDS drugs while more than a half million Americans already have died from this disease. As many as 45 percent of people testing positive for HIV received their first positive test result less than a year before AIDS was diagnosed - when the disease is so advanced treatment is difficult. With an average of 10 years between HIV infection and an AIDS diagnosis, this suggests an unacceptably large number of individuals are living with HIV for many years before they are aware of their infection and they may be unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

"As a practicing physician, I have treated patients with HIV/AIDS for over two decades. During this period we have seen HIV infection transformed from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable condition for many, largely as a result of revolutionary new medications," Dr. Coburn said. "The success of these drugs, however, is dependent upon access to both early diagnosis and treatment. It is essential, therefore, when Congress reauthorizes the Ryan White CARE Act — the largest federal HIV/AIDS-specific service program — this year we prioritize HIV diagnosis and AIDS treatment and remove barriers that are preventing access to both."

Dr. Coburn was the primary author of the Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization signed into law in 2000 and recently introduced S. 2339 which would update and renew the program for another five years. He also served as Co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS (PACHA) between 2002 and 2004.

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