HIV Care Providers Applaud Bush Administration on Ryan White Proposal
July 27, 2005
Front-line HIV medical care providers from a leading organization of health care professionals are applauding the Bush administration for making medical care the top priority in its newly released guidelines to Congress for renewing the nation's largest program dedicated to HIV/AIDS care, the Ryan White CARE Act.
Ryan White CARE Act programs provide medical care and other services for more than half a million low-income, uninsured, or underinsured people living with HIV/AIDS. The Act expires on Sept. 30, requiring Congress to reauthorize it.
"Ryan White was originally written at a time when HIV infection was a death sentence," says Paul Volberding, MD, chair of the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) Board of Directors. "HIVMA members from across the country have been there as new drugs and medical care changed it into a chronic condition."
HIVMA is pleased to see that the administration's guidelines for reauthorizing Ryan White follow recommendations the Association made this spring along with the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM). Those recommendations focused on revising Ryan White's funding priorities to ensure access to lifesaving medical treatment for people with no other source of care. The recommendations drew from members' abundant experience in providing HIV care, and were informed by a key 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine.
"We see wide variations across the country in the care to which people with HIV/AIDS have access. That's not right," says HIVMA board member Anita Vaughn, MD. "Whether you get the treatment that can save your life shouldn't depend on where you live. We're glad to see the administration understands that." The administration proposes that 75 percent of Ryan White funds be used for core medical services. HIVMA looks forward to working with the administration and members of Congress to define a set of core medical services that reflects the complexity of HIV disease, including mental health, substance abuse, and nutrition counseling services.
HIVMA is also pleased to see the administration backing the Association's proposal for a federal list of core anti-AIDS medications based on federal treatment guidelines. "All low-income people deserve access to a minimum set of essential drugs," Dr. Vaughn says.
The administration proposes establishing indicators to determine "severity of need" for Ryan White funds. The intention is to target money to places and groups that need it most. "We're glad to see the administration's efforts to make Ryan White funding more equitable," Dr. Volberding says. "We look forward to working with the administration and Congress on how to define 'severity of need.'"
The Association will also work to expand the Act to encourage training, recruitment, and retention of HIV care providers.
"Experienced providers are closing their practices, and there aren't many new ones willing to take on this demanding complex field," Dr. Volberding says. "This is a major factor decreasing access to care. We badly need more care providers to treat the increasing number of people living with HIV/AIDS."
"We congratulate the Bush administration for providing the leadership necessary to spur action on this essential program," Dr. Volberding says. "We urge Congress to take up the matter right away, so a new Act is ready when the old one expires Sept. 30."
The Bush administration's Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization principles are online at www.hhs.gov/news/press/2005pres/ryanwhite.html.
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This article was provided by HIV Medicine Association. Visit HIVMA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.