Senate committee
approves Ryan White bill

The Senate health
committee voted 19–1 Wednesday to approve a bill to
reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides funding
for HIV treatment and support programs throughout the
nation. The bill includes revisions to Ryan White
funding formulas to give more weight—and
money—to rural and Southern states that some
AIDS advocates say have been shortchanged by the
program in the past. Other significant changes in the
bill include requirements that 75% of all Ryan White funds
be spent on primary care, that all facilities
receiving federal AIDS funds conduct mandatory HIV
antibody testing, and that Ryan White funds unused by any
state be redirected to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to
provide antiretroviral drugs to low-income
HIV-positive Americans.

Other changes to
the act’s funding formulas include factoring in the
number of HIV-positive people currently living in an area
rather than basing grant amounts purely on a
region’s cumulative number of AIDS cases, and
creating a funding tier system so that both large and
small cities receive adequate funding.

Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, was the only senator to
vote against the bill. She said she could not support the
bill because it shifts money away from urban areas
that have large numbers of HIV patients. New York
State could lose up to $20 million a year under the
new funding formulas. California also could lose tens of
millions of dollars in federal AIDS grants,
health officials say.

The full Senate
is expected to address the bill later this month or in
early June. The House is expected to address its version of
the Ryan White reauthorization bill next month.

While AIDS
advocates praised the lawmakers for their work in
reauthorizing the key AIDS funding program, they still worry
that not enough money is being allocated to the Ryan
White Act to meet the needs of all low-income
HIV-positive Americans.

"The Ryan White
CARE Act is in desperate need of increased funding so
that it can continue to meet the needs of low-income
Americans living with HIV/AIDS," said Human Rights
Campaign president Joe Solmonese in a press
statement. "Just redistributing scarce funds won't do
the job at a time when over half a million Americans with
HIV/AIDS still lack adequate access to health care. While we
are pleased that this bill is moving forward, we
caution the Senate to ensure this vital program is
strengthened, not weakened, as it moves forward."
(The Advocate)

Tags: Health, Health

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