Congress Approves Ryan White CARE Legislation

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This week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved funding of the S.1793 Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS resources Emergency (CARE) Act through the year 2013. The legislation will provide improved healthcare for patients with HIV and AIDS.

“The Ryan White Program has been serving Americans living with HIV and AIDS for nearly 20 years,” said Rep. Levin. “Strengthening this program will bring help to more people and maintain our commitment to HIV/AIDS patients while we continue to search for a cure.”

The next step will be for President Obama to sign the act into law. There is not a specific date set for this to occur, but the President’s Executive Office has released a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the act.

A 5% per year increase in funding was approved and will provide about $2.5 billion annually for primary medical care and support services to about 500,000 people each year, primarly those who are low-income, uninsured or under-insured.

The program first began in 1990 when Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana, died from AIDS. He received a blood transfusion in 1984, because he was a hemophiliac, which was tainted with the HIV virus.

Since its founding, the legislation has gone through three renewals. The last revision included many funding cuts, but is set to expire on October 31st. The program disburses funds to states based on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in a particular area to eliminate disparities in access to care among racial and ethnic groups.

Both the Senate and House bills madate certain criteria be in place for the funding. States must use a name-based reporting system by the 2013 fiscal year. States currently use code-based data for privacy reasons. The HHS Secretary must also establish a goal of testing 5 million patients annually for HIV and AIDS by January 1, 2010. Health agencies will report to Congress whether they achieved this goal.

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HIV still infects more than 56,000 people in the United States each year, according to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV or AIDS. "Federal investment in HIV/AIDS treatment and care is essential in stopping this epidemic and ensuring that people living with HIV/AIDS can live with dignity," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), one of the sponsors of the bill.

Provided here is a summary of what the funding for the Ryan White CARE Act will provide:

* Emergency Relief – grants to metropolitan areas with very high numbers of AIDS cases. These grants fund comprehensive primary care and support services, including home health care, hospice care, housing, transportation, and nutrition services.

* Comprehensive Care – grants to states for health care and support services for persons with HIV/AIDS. These grants fund home and community-based health care and support services, and an AIDS drug assistance program.

* Early Intervention – grants to public and non-public entities to pay for community-based programs that provide comprehensive primary care services intended to prevent or reduce HIV-related deaths. The measure requires that grantees provide counseling and information about hepatitis A, B, and C. It also requires them to develop an electronic information system to improve the ability to report data.

* Pediatric AIDS Program – grants to improve and expand primary care and support services for women, infants, or children with HIV/AIDS and their families.

* Minority AIDS Initiative – funds efforts to address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities and to improve access, treatment, care, and outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities living with HIV/AIDS.

Sources Include: The New York Times, The United States Congress, and the Office of National AIDS Policy.

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