Bush signs new Ryan White Act

Posted on 21 Dec 2006 at 7:04pm
By Deb Riechmann Associated Press

Newest version of AIDS funding bill shifts money to rural areas, Southern states

WASHINGTON President Bush on Tuesday signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006 the newest version of the Ryan White CARE Act that will shift AIDS money to rural areas and the South.

The House on Dec. 9 agreed by voice vote to renew the $2.1 billion-annual measure.

The Senate passed the bill earlier 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, allowing earlier reviews of the formulas for distributing money and eliminates the large dollar cuts in the final years that threatened some areas.

AIDS began as a big-city epidemic affecting mainly gay white men. The updates, the first since 2000, aim to spread money more equally around the country.

Current law had only counted patients with full-blown 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.

Rebecca Haag, executive director, AIDS Action Council, said her organization is “pleased that the President and Congress engaged in a serious, bipartisan, bicameral effort” to create and pass a will that will “clearly serve many people living with HIV and AIDS in the United States.”

But, Haag added, “this bill alone is not sufficient to ensure that life-saving drugs and medical treatment are available to all who are infected.
Appropriations have fallen far short over the last several years while the epidemic is growing with 40,000 new infections every year.”

“The reality is we need more funding,” Haag said. “We urge the President to add additional funds to his budget request for next year and to work with the new Congress to make sure that additional resources are made available.”

Katy Caldwell, executive director of Legacy Community Health Services in Houston and chair of AIDS Action Council board, said people must remember that the AIDS epidemic continues to grow, and that “The current funding is not sufficient to address the needs of those already in the system, much less the newly diagnosed.”

“If the President and Congress want to end this epidemic, they must devote more resources to fighting this terrible disease,” Caldwell said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 22, 2006.

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