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HIV medical
providers join forces for increase in funding

HIV medical
providers join forces for increase in funding

Medical centers facing a crisis in HIV care are forming a coalition to protect the needs of health centers, clinics, and city and county health departments that provide care and services to people with HIV nationwide. The Title III Coalition will represent medical providers currently funded through Title III of the Ryan White CARE Act who provide medicine and services to more than half a million people living with HIV and who have seen funding stall as the number of patients increase.

In the United States, 40,000 people are newly infected with HIV every year. However, Congress has not upped funding to Title III providers to keep ahead of the epidemic and bring medical care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured patients. Merceditas Villanueva, project director of the Title III Program at the Waterbury Hospital ID Clinic in Waterbury, Conn., said in a statement that the number of HIV patients at her clinic has more than doubled in 2 1/2 years. "We have risen to the challenge with limited resources, and we offer our patients some of the best care available in medicine. For this, we were asked to take an $8,000 cut in our Title III base funding levels."

The Title III Coalition will be assembled with help from the HIV Medicine Association and the American Academy of HIV Medicine, which together represent nearly every HIV care provider in the U.S. The coalition will work to procure adequate funding for medical providers to fight HIV/AIDS and the illnesses that arise from the disease like hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes, and depression.

Aimee Wilkin, Ryan White program director at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, N.C., and member of the AAHIVM board of directors, said in a statement: "We are squeezing out everything we can from our available resources, but we can't provide all the services our patients need. Many have substance abuse or mental health problems that would keep them from sticking to their treatment, but we don't have the funds or personnel to provide psychiatric or substance abuse treatment. We end up sending fragile patients into a complex and collapsing public mental health system."

"Congress's neglect of Title III providers is indefensible," said Michael S. Saag, director of the 1917 Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and member of the HIVMA board of directors in the same release. "And the burden will be even greater when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new routine testing recommendations go into effect. We hope to start making progress identifying the 25% of people who don't know they are infected with HIV--but who will care for all those new patients? That's why the Title III Coalition is forming: to deliver the message to Congress that more funding is urgently needed."

The Title III Coalition will also play an active part in the implementation of the new CARE Act, recently reauthorized by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Said Wilkin: "It's time HRSA heard from those who are seeing firsthand the effects of this growing epidemic. We're in danger of sliding backward in the level of care we can provide our patients. Congress needs to fund Title III and the rest of the Ryan White CARE Act, and HRSA needs to implement it, to meet the needs of those it was intended to help: those people living with HIV with nowhere else to turn for care." (The Advocate)

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