I lost one of my two sons, Brett, to AIDS three years ago. I do not intend to lose my other one, Michael, who has been living with HIV for six years and with AIDS for the last two years. He is leading a productive, happy and hopeful life. But, our hopefulness is being sorely tested.
In 1993, Congress approved a large budget increase recommended by President Clinton, along with a restructuring of the Office of AIDS Research, to better plan, coordinate, evaluate and expedite AIDS research. But we've seen little action. There is no strategic plan, no clear accelerated activity--just more dialogue. And it's not apparent where the discretionary funds authorized for 1994 have gone. Further, the budget process for 1995 is a disaster.
This year, the scientists at the National Institutes of Health determined that they needed an additional $550 million to mount an effective research fight against AIDS. The President's budget proposed a $78-million increase, or nearly $500 million less than what the leading scientists think is needed. The House has appropriated only a $41-million increase. Yet the AIDS epidemic continues to expand.
To make matters worse, the results of last year's European Concorde study of AZT only highlights the short-lived benefits of that treatment. Now, to keep our hopes alive, we anxiously follow every twist and turn in the development of a new class of treatments, protease inhibitors.
How can we end this horrible epidemic if we fail to give our scientists the resources they need to conduct vital research? How can the new director of AIDS research, Dr. William Paul, reinvigorate the effort if he does not have the money to keep pace with last year's grants or the discretionary funds authorized so that he can act quickly when new opportunities arise?
To cut back in the face of a pandemic that is ravaging continents and which has grown from 10,000 cases in 1985 to more than 330,000 in the United States alone is unconscionable. Together with with groups like Mothers' Voices (which seeks an end to the AIDS epidemic through education and advocacy) and other families across the country, I ask the Senate to recommit the funds needed to keep the research intense, focused, vigorous and hopeful.