Bush Administration’s Flat Funding of Ryan White CARE Act Will Mean Service Cuts, Advocates Say
AIDS activists are concerned that the Bush administration's budget "funding freeze" for the Ryan White CARE Act indicates domestic AIDS treatment and prevention is "not a priority" for the White House, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. In its proposed budget, the administration is "emphasi[zing]" research over treatment, as proposed NIH funding for AIDS research would increase by $258 million over last year's allocation, bringing the budget to $2.5 billion. However, the budget would keep Ryan White funding at current levels. Advocates say that research funding cannot replace "expanded treatment." Ernest Hopkins, director of federal affairs at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said, "You can't flat fund services to people in need and tell them you are taking care of their needs by funding clinical research." Kay Garvey, a spokesperson for HRSA, the agency that administers Ryan White funds, said, "The funding is still there, it just doesn't have the dramatic increase it has [had] before. The focus is now on research on how we can get more activity going in the long term." Service providers say that the funding shift will "force" program cuts in order to handle an increasing number of patients. William Orr, executive director of the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, said, "More patients and flat dollars is a prescription for problems. The reality is that with better medications, more people are living longer, so they need more services and that is what Ryan White provides." The Star-Ledger reports that state officials are also concerned that the flat funding level will "eventually hurt" state programs. Gloria Rodriguez, assistant commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said, "Two years down the line, if we continue to get level funding, of course it is going to hurt us because we are going to have more people in need of case management." However, Rafael Rodriguez, chair of the Union County HIV Consortium, said, "Many agencies [and] providers have become complacent with the idea that Ryan White is there so we have dollars to provide services," adding that the act originally was designed as "an emergency fund" (Del Medico, Newark Star-Ledger, 7/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.