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Wyoming AIDS
advocates praise efforts to fund rural AIDS programs

Wyoming AIDS
advocates praise efforts to fund rural AIDS programs

AIDS advocates recently gathered at the Wyoming state capitol to support federal legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, that would increase funding to tackle HIV in rural areas. Enzi, who is working on the measure with Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said it would also provide more money for HIV treatment in minority communities.

HIV infections in Wyoming have been increasing partly due to the state's energy boom, which has led to a spike in drug use, officials said at the rally. State auditor Max Maxfield said he applauded Enzi's effort "to fight for rural states like Wyoming to help them get the support they need."

According to state lawmaker Mike Massie, Wyoming has provided a higher proportion of state money to federal Ryan White CARE Act funds than any other state. The state receives $370,000 a year in Ryan White money and pays $735,000 in each two-year program, said officials. "Now it's time for the feds to step up to the plate," Massie said.

Without the state money, said Sharon Renter, chief of the communicable disease section of the Wyoming health department, AIDS patients would be assisted for just four months a year. As of October, 81 of the 197 HIV-positive people living in Wyoming were enrolled in the Ryan White program.

"From my own personal experience, there's nothing more troubling, hopeless, and helpless than to watch someone you love die of AIDS," said Nancy Freudenthal, the state's first lady. "Senator Enzi has made sure that his legislation is written in such a way that it helps people in rural communities." (AP)

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