Southern Health Officials Call on Congress To Approve Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization
A group of Republican senators and health officials from Southern states on Thursday held a news conference in Washington, D.C., to call on Congress to approve reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Evans, AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/14). The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in May voted 19-1 to approve a bill (S 2823) -- co-sponsored by HELP Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) -- that 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. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) 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, 8/23). However, Evelyn Foust, North Carolina director of HIV prevention and care, at the news conference said, "The South's [HIV/AIDS] epidemic is real," adding, "We have to prioritize those areas of the country that need help now." Some advocates at the news conference said lawmakers told them that if a compromise is not reached by the end of September, reauthorization of the CARE Act likely would not be approved until 2008, according to the AP/Times. Some congressional aides said they were hopeful a reauthorization measure will pass before the end of the month. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she would not make a decision on how she would vote on a reauthorization bill until negotiations are complete, adding, "My bottom line is this: That the money get to living HIV/AIDS patients, wherever they may be. I think that's the most important thing." (AP/Contra Costa Times, 9/14).
Frist Opinion Piece
"Areas facing the greatest growth in HIV/AIDS case loads ... will get more" funding under the CARE Act reauthorization measure approved by the Senate HELP committee, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a Buffalo News opinion piece. According to Frist, actions taken by Rodham Clinton and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to oppose the bill harm "upstate New York and the nation as a whole." The revisions in the measure "will still provide New York City with significant funding," Frist writes, adding, "We need to make the changes because the government's last official tally of new HIV/AIDS infections makes it clear that HIV/AIDS isn't limited to gay men or big cities" (Frist, Buffalo News, 9/15).