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On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 38-10 in favor of a spending bill that would direct more Ryan White CARE Act funds to Southern states. Lawmakers from Southern and rural areas said revisions to the original 1990 act are necessary to keep up with the AIDS epidemic's changing track. But representatives from California, New York, and New Jersey voted against it and complained their states are being shortchanged.
According to government studies, funding under the act has not kept pace as AIDS shifted from affecting mainly urban gay white men to infecting more minorities and people in the South. At present, the act sets spending levels in locations by calculating the number of cases that have progressed to AIDS. The revised funding formula would also count HIV cases who have not yet developed AIDS, thus favoring regions where the epidemic is a newer phenomenon.
Lawmakers estimated the new formula would cost New York more than $75 million. Over the act's five-year life, California would lose some $50 million, with San Francisco alone taking a $10 million hit. San Francisco currently benefits from a quirk in the law, eliminated in the proposed revision, that counts some dead people among AIDS patients. In contrast, Alabama's share of the funds would climb from about $11 million to about $18 million annually.
A proposal to extend the act by one year while negotiations continued was defeated, as was a provision that would have softened the blow for states set to lose funds. In May, a similar Ryan White bill passed the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee. Whether Congress can pass the legislation before it breaks for the fall elections is uncertain. (AP)