Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization Could Increase Transportation, Other Services for HIV-Positive People in Rural South
HIV-positive people living in the rural South, who often face obstacles getting to urban treatment facilities, could benefit from transportation programs and an increase in available medications with boosted funding to Southern states under a compromise bill (HR 6143) that would reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, the AP/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports (Hunter, AP/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 12/11). Congress on Saturday passed the bill by voice vote. The legislation calls for strengthening "hold harmless" provisions and maintaining funding levels so that states would not receive less than 95% of their 2006 funding levels; counting all HIV-positive people for funding regardless of where they live or how the data are reported; maintaining the funding pool for prescription drugs and therapeutics; continuing HHS development of a framework addressing HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and a follow-up report of their progress in 2008; and maintaining a four-year transition period for states with code-based reporting systems to switch to names-based reporting systems without penalization. The compromise also would repeal the Ryan White program after three years, forcing Congress to write a new law and reconsider the program's structural challenges before then, Senate aides said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/11). According to HIV/AIDS advocates, the legislation would make HIV/AIDS services in Southern states "comparable" to other regions of the country. "If you look at our urban areas, primary care may be available, but if you go out beyond the reaches of cities like Birmingham or Charlotte, N.C., or Raleigh-Durham, it is not unusual for people living with HIV/AIDS to travel really far distances to get to a primary care provider," Evelyn Foust, head of North Carolina's HIV prevention branch, said, adding, "They can have a real difficult time getting primary care, and that access makes all the difference in the world." Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama, said the additional $7 million Alabama is scheduled to receive would be used to expand transportation programs for HIV/AIDS patients and increase the number of medications in the Alabama Drug Assistance Program. According to Hiers, 35 medications currently are on Alabama's list, compared with 500 in New York state. According to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee estimates, Georgia would receive an additional $4.1 million annually under the new legislation; Louisiana, $1.1 million; Mississippi, $1.7 million; North Carolina, $10.2 million; and South Carolina, $2.3 million (AP/Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 12/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.