sent to President Bush will shift care and treatment
money to rural areas and the South as Congress voted to
renew the largest program for people with HIV/AIDS.
The House early Saturday agreed by voice vote to renew
the $2.1 billion annual Ryan White CARE Act. The
Senate passed the bill earlier in the week after senators
from New York and New Jersey dropped their opposition,
accepting a compromise that settled months of dispute
just as Congress adjourned for the year.
Lawmakers from some urban areas feared losing
money under a five-year renewal of the law. The final
deal renews it for three years. That allows earlier
reviews of the formulas for distributing money and
eliminates the large dollar cuts in the final years
that threatened some areas.
''This legislation focuses on lifesaving and
life-extending services and increased accountability
and will provide more flexibility to the Secretary of
Health and Human Services to direct funding to areas of
greatest need,'' President Bush said in a statement Saturday.
In the United States, AIDS first appeared
primarily in large urban areas on the East and
West coasts, and gay men were the largest group
affected by the disease. Today, AIDS is prevalent in the
South and among some ethnic groups nationwide. The
updates, the first since 2000, aim to spread money
more equally around the country.
Current law only counts patients who have
progressed from HIV infection to AIDS. The revision
also counts patients with HIV who have not developed
AIDS. That change favors the South and rural areas, for
example, where the disease is a newer phenomenon. Alabama
expects to gain some $7 million in the first year of
the new law; New York would lose about $8 million.
''We have addressed the epidemic of today, not
yesterday, by modernizing the Ryan White CARE Act to
ensure federal funds follow the person being treated,
wherever they live,'' said GOP senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming,
chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee. (Erica Werner, AP)