ryan white CARE act sunsets in 18 days: jim chud at frontiers (029)

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Ryan White HIV/AIDS Funding Due to Expire Oct. 1
by Jim Chud
Volume 28 Issue 10

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In December 2006, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006 (RWTMA) became law. The Act replaced the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act that had been initially signed into law in 1990, and subsequently “reauthorized” (renewed) in 1996 and 2000. The CARE Act was the country’s largest federally funded non-entitlement program for people living with HIV/AIDS and forms the core of the local HIV/AIDS care and treatment response in most local jurisdictions. The act sought funding to improve availability of care for low-income uninsured and under-insured victims of AIDS and their families.

The RWTMA included a sunset clause that entails the end of the legislation on Oct. 1, 2009. Consequently, HIV/AIDS activists and service providers around the nation are urging Congress to extend this legislation for another three years with minimal modifications in order to allow changes in RWTMA to have an effect and to give the community an opportunity to more thoughtfully consider additional innovations, especially in light of pending healthcare reform legislation and a national HIV/AIDS strategy.

The inclusion of a sunset clause in the current legislation means that unless Congress enacts new legislation on or before the current sunset date of Oct. 1, 2009, Ryan White will expire. With only four weeks left, legislation to reauthorize the Ryan White Program has yet to be introduced. Although Ryan White reauthorization has support by the Obama administration and in Congress, health reform efforts have overwhelmed Congressional and administration attention. Now is the time to make your voice heard.

There is still time to contact your legislators and remind them to take action on this crucial legislation. In California, House Speaker Pelosi and Senators Boxer and Feinstein, along with your local legislators have contact information at takeaction.lwv.org. You can also contact President Barack Obama and senior administration officials including Jeff Crowley, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP at whitehouse.gov/contact or at (202) 456-1111.

As a gay man who has lived with HIV for over thirty years and as a member of the activist community, I was surprised and disappointed to discover that many of the newly and not-so-newly infected among us were unaware of exactly what Ryan White funding was or that funding for their healthcare would ever expire. I found this especially astonishing in light of the recent cuts in the California state AIDS budget. It’s sad to see just how much activism and awareness have disappeared from our community.

I believe that this uninformed perspective can be explained, at least in part, by the absence of HIV/AIDS mention in the mainstream press for the last several years and the recently overwhelming debate over national healthcare reform. Lack of coverage has also contributed to the recent rise in new infections in many communities. Just for the record, the reality is that AIDS is a fatal disease with no known cure, and for many, long-term survival with HIV/AIDS can be fraught with several bearable yet unpleasant and disabling conditions.

I also think that it is important to remember that the original CARE Act was named in honor of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through a tainted hemophilia treatment in 1984 and who had the courage and personal conviction to fight for his right to attend public school in spite of his disease and in the face of immense opposition. He became an inspiration for much of the gay community—both affected by and infected with HIV.

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