Studds Says Reagan Has Shown Little Concern Over AIDSDANIEL BEEGAN , Associated Press
Sep. 19, 1985 4:13 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Even though he labels AIDS research a top administration priority, President Reagan has only spoken out once about the deadly disease, and then only when prompted by reporters, says Rep. Gerry E. Studds, the only acknowledged homosexual in Congress.
''... The president said last night it is one of the top priorities of the last four years,'' the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview Wednesday. ''Under those circumstances, it is more than a little difficult to imagine why he has never mentioned it once before in public.''
''This is a major national public health crisis,'' Studds said. ''There are medical authorities who think it is one of the very worst we have faced in a very long time.''
At his news conference Tuesday night, Reagan, responding to reporters' questions, said more than $500 million had been spent to try to find ways of combatting AIDS, a fatal virus which attacks the body's ability to fight disease.
But Studds said Reagan's requests to Congress for fiscal years 1982 through 1986 were far less than that amount, and the money was appropriated only because Congress went beyond administration requests.
''The administration's request for the five fiscal years in question, '82, '83, '84, '85 and '86, adds up to $213.5 million,'' Studds said. ''The way I read that, it's less than 'over half a billion' by a substantial amount.''
Studds said the administration's original fiscal year 1986 request was for $85.6 million, less than the $97.4 million Congress actually appropriated last year for AIDs research.
After Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., pressured the administration, Studds said, that request was increased to $126 million.
Congress likely will approve more than that, Studds said. One subcommittee in the House has authorized a $196 million spending level, and if it is approved, Congress will have provided $389 million over those same five years, he noted.
''I think the country has a right to expect a great deal more than this from our president,'' he said.
The White House press office did not return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment about Studds' remarks on AIDS spending.
Studds said he was concerned that what he feels is the administration's lack of response could be because acquired immune deficiency syndrome started out in the United States as a ''gay disease.''
AIDS most frequently strikes male homosexuals, recipients of contaminated blood transfusions and intravenous drug abusers.
As of Sept. 9, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta had tabulated 13,074 cases of AIDS, of whom 6,611 had died. No one has recovered.
Studds said he also was disappointed that Reagan didn't speak out more strongly when asked if he would send a young child of his own to a school with students who had AIDS.
Medical experts have said there is no evidence AIDS can be spread from casual contact, such as a child going to school with someone who has the disease, Studds said.
Studds made his sexual orientation public in 1983, when he was censured by the House for a relationship he had 10 years earlier with a House page.