The federal law authorizing how the vast majority of autism research dollars are spent will be up for consideration again by Congress in a few months. It is well past time for the United States to have a generously funded, aggressive program to find the causes, treatments and cure(s) for autism. But that can't happen if we continue with current research policies and the trivial amount of research dollars devoted to autism. In 2017 the National Institute of Health, the federal agency that directs almost all medical research spending in the US, spent $245 million on autism research, which is somewhat more than the annual payroll for the New York Yankees. As legendary US Senator Everett Dirksen said 50 years ago, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." We are even spending real money by the standards of the 1960s.
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Please click on the Take Action Link to send messages to your representatives in Washington, DC and the White House calling for a research program funded at a level and organized to respond in a way demanded by the autism epidemic.
Compare the federal approach to autism to the response to HIV/AIDS. We do not have a cure for AIDS but we know what causes it, we know how it is transmitted, there are highly effective prevention methods, we have accurate numbers on how many people have it, and we have effective treatments that allow people to live healthy lives of normal duration. Fortunately, AIDS incidence in the US is declining. Most of that progress is the result of federal investment of tax dollars. And a lot of them, more than $90 billion since the 1980s, with $3 billion per year slated for the foreseeable future. That's what can be achieved with effort and resources commensurate with a problem.
Now autism. Officially we still don’t know what causes autism. Officially we still don’t know if the autism rate is going up (even though measure of autism have been increasing for 30 years), no treatments or medical interventions have been developed, no prevention methods have been identified. There are now more Americans with autism than HIV. We have invested less that $2 billion in autism research. And spend less than a tenth on autism research as we do on AIDS. We need an effort for autism comparable to the successful effort to fight AIDS.
Autism CARES Act is the name of the current autism research bill. That name has got to go. Imagine a "Pancreatic Cancer CARES Act," or HIV/AIDS CARES Act? Autism is serious disabling disorder increasing at an exponential rate, not a nanny.
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