Sen. Rodham Clinton’s Stalling on Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization Upsets Some HIV/AIDS Advocates, Garners Support From Others
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) move to hold Senate approval on a bill (S 2823) that would reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act until a new funding formulation is created has drawn the ire of some HIV/AIDS advocates, while others support her position, the Washington Post reports (Birnbaum, Washington Post, 8/23). The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in May voted 19-1 to approve the bill -- co-sponsored by HELP Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- which would amend the CARE Act by allocating more federal HIV/AIDS funding to Southern and rural states. The bill would include revising the formulas for funding calculations to include HIV cases and not just AIDS cases and would create a tiered system of larger and smaller cities in an effort to distribute funds to more rural states. The bill also would mandate 75% of funding go to "core medical services," such as medications and physician visits and also would set a minimum drug formulary. Rodham Clinton was the only HELP committee member to vote against the bill, saying states with urban centers are most affected by HIV/AIDS and should not have their funding reduced, adding that New York state could lose $20 million under the proposed revisions (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/18). According to the Post, Rodham Clinton since the May committee vote has been negotiating a new funding formula -- one that is "closer to current law" -- but lawmakers have not reached a consensus. A spokesperson for the senator said the bill has not yet been considered in the House and therefore Rodham Clinton can not be considered as obstructing the legislation.
Harry Alford, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to Rodham Clinton last week wrote, "I must share with you the bewilderment of African Americans throughout the country who cannot understand why you are taking this stand against opening the door to more equitable funding that will chiefly benefit people of color." Rodham Clinton in a letter to Alford on Tuesday wrote that she agreed that HIV/AIDS "has had a disproportionate impact on people of color" and that "our federal government can do more," but she said the bill in its current form would "unfairly shift millions of dollars in funding away from New York and other states that have been hardest hit by the epidemic, jeopardizing their ability to provide vital care and treatment services." The New York City-based HIV/AIDS advocacy group Gay Men's Health Crisis "fully supports Sen. Clinton's position on the current bill," a spokesperson for the group said. AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said that Rodham Clinton's stance on the CARE Act funding formula "seems very parochial; it looks to the past and not to the future." However, he added that the senator has "an excellent record" on HIV/AIDS-related issues and remains a "reliable vote and her office is seen as a place to go to support AIDS issues" (Washington Post, 8/23).