September 29, 2005
The American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM), therefore, urges Congress to prioritize the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act so that the growing gaps in offering lifesaving care and treatment can be resolved.
"The President called for the reauthorization of this law in his State of the Union speech in January," said Howard Grossman, MD, AAHIVS, Executive Director of AAHIVM. "But we still, to date, have not seen a bill filed in either house. We know that it can take Congress a long time to pass meaningful legislation -- involving a process of numerous drafts, hearings, markups and so forth. These delays are a little disconcerting."
Dr. Grossman continues, "With Hurricane Katrina, we have worked proactively to address the immediate health care needs of those affected, particularly the 15,000 people who are HIV-positive. We understand that hurricane relief is a priority right now, but the medical struggles we have seen since Katrina only underscore how fragile our health care system can be, especially for those with life-threatening conditions and disabilities. Reauthorizing the Ryan White CARE Act to tackle the deficiencies in our HIV health care infrastructure is one critical step that Congress can take towards saving and improving lives."
Though the CARE Act has been a marked success, AAHIVM and others have identified a number of increasing deficiencies, many of which correlate with the ballooning numbers of people that depend on a perennially flat-funded program.
"We now have 1.1 million people in the United States infected with HIV/AIDS," says John Stansell, M.D., AAHIVS, and AAHIVM Board Chair. "We certainly need more money to extend CARE Act services to these people who desperately need treatment and care. Beyond that, AAHIVM has recommended a number of improvements to the law to better address where we are in 2005, including prioritizing medical care, reducing disparities in care across the country, ending waiting lists for medications, recognizing a broad definition of necessary health services, and taking measures to encourage more professionals to enter this increasingly complicated area of medicine. We need Congress to look at these holes and address them as soon as possible."
"We know the passing of the September 30th deadline tomorrow does not mean that services will abruptly end. But Congress and the Administration have repeatedly said that the Ryan White CARE Act is a priority," said Dr. Grossman. "We simply would like to see that intention translated into action."