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President Clinton plans to seek an increase in spending for a program to help people with the virus that causes AIDS buy expensive new treatment drugs, the White House said today.

Spokesman Joe Lockhart confirmed a New York Times story that said Clinton would seek a 35 percent increase in spending for AIDS drug assistance programs, which help pay for new medications that help block development of the disease.

Those drugs can cost $12,000 to $15,000 a year for one person, the newspaper said.

People infected with the virus are generally unable to obtain treatment drugs under Medicaid until they become severely ill. The new drugs slow the progression of the disease and prevent disability, the paper said.

Clinton is expected to request $385 million for the drug programs in the fiscal year 1999, up from $285 million this fiscal year and $167 million last year, Lockhart said.

The president also plans to seek a $165 million increase for a larger program to help provide treatment for people with AIDS. That would bring spending for the program to more than $1.3 billion, up from $1.15 billion this year, Lockhart said.

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