$2 Billion in New Spending Urged in Battle on AIDS

Associated Press

The chairman of President Reagan's AIDS commission called today for spending an additional $2 billion to fight the disease among drug abusers.

Retired Navy Adm. James D. Watkins proposed that half of the money should be in federal funds with the rest coming from state and local sources.

The additional $1 billion in federal spending called for in the chairman's recommendations to the full 13-member commission would nearly double the total $1.3 billion Reagan requested for all AIDS education and research in the budget he submitted last week.

But Watkins told reporters only 15% of the nation's estimated 1.3 million intravenous drug abusers are in treatment plans, with long waiting lists in many cities for people seeking help in kicking drugs.

"Anyone crying for help should get help on demand," Watkins said.

Moreover, he said, the sharply higher spending on drug treatment must be a "sustained emphasis. You cannot just throw in some money one year and drop it out next year."

Although male homosexuals still make up the largest percentage of people with AIDS, health officials have determined that the disease is spreading most rapidly now among intravenous drug abusers and their sexual partners.

Watkins' recommendations go to the full commission for action Monday. The panel expects to present an interim report to the President the following week.

The former chief of naval operations acknowledged that his recommendation for sharply higher spending on drug treatment programs might spark controversy by opening the way for criticism of the Administration for not doing more in that area.

But he expressed confidence the full commission will adopt that and most of his other recommendations for an interim report and said, "It is not in our charter to worry about the political impact."

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