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Congress sends
AIDS care bill to president

Congress sends
AIDS care bill to president

AIDS legislation 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)

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