Congress Should Renew, Expand Ryan White CARE Act To Reflect Changes in AIDS Epidemic, Opinion Piece Says
"It is critical" that Congress renew the Ryan White CARE Act and "strengthen and expand it as well," former Surgeon General David Satcher, interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill (Satcher, The Hill, 9/29). The law authorizing the CARE Act -- which funds HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment activities nationwide -- expires on Friday. President Bush has proposed cuts to the act. Advocates say that funding cuts would prevent essential services -- such as emergency housing, food aid and financial assistance -- from reaching HIV-positive people who need assistance (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/28). Satcher says Congress must "reassess the legislation" to ensure that "it addresses the changes that have taken place in both the nature and the spread of this epidemic." With more HIV-positive people living longer with the help of antiretroviral drugs and an estimated 40,000 new HIV cases every year, "states and cities are already straining under a growing caseload," Satcher writes, adding that "nearly half" of the estimated 1.1 million HIV-positive people living in the U.S. are not receiving sufficient care and treatment. In addition, "more and more people" who are poor, minorities or who live in rural areas -- especially in the South -- are contracting HIV, creating "additional hardships" for states that already lack funding to provide HIV/AIDS-related drug coverage through their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs or Medicaid, Satcher writes. If funding for the CARE Act continues to be "flat funded," as has been done for "many years now," states will not be able to eliminate treatment waiting lists nor provide "care and treatment to people who aren't even on those lists," Satcher says. "Instead, it will only serve to pit city against city and state against state for the limited dollars available," Satcher writes, adding, "A person's ability to receive treatment should not depend upon where in the country they live" (The Hill, 9/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.