Foundation Urges Swift Presidential Approval of Ryan White Program Extension

Congress overwhelmingly supports legislation to continue care for low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation commends the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 today and urges President Obama, who has expressed strong support for the lifesaving legislation, to quickly sign the bill.

Approved by the Senate on Monday, the bill authorizes a four-year continuation of the largest federal program designed specifically to assist uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV/AIDS.

“The reauthorization of Ryan White provides access to medical care and support services for HIV-positive people who would otherwise go without treatment,” said Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "Not only does treatment improve the health of HIV-positive people, it also contributes to reduced HIV transmission. Preventing new infections is central to making progress against the epidemic in the United States."

With an estimated 25 percent of the nation’s 1.2 million HIV-positive people undiagnosed, a new feature of the reauthorization calls for a nationwide goal of administering 5 million HIV tests annually. The bill also authorizes a 5 percent annual increase in funding for the program and supports continued funding of the Minority AIDS Initiative, which addresses the disproportionate impact of the disease on racial and ethnic minorities.

The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act’s authorizing legislation expired on Sept. 30 but was extended through Oct. 31 as Congressional committees worked on the reauthorization in consultation with HIV/AIDS service providers, local and state governments.

The Ryan White CARE ACT was first enacted in 1990 and has been reauthorized three times––in 1996, 2000 and 2006. As a payer of last resort for people who have no health care coverage or face insurance limits, the program supports primary medical care and support services for 500,000 people each year.

In 2006, Congress took steps to ensure that the program adopts name-based HIV case data as a basis for funding jurisdictions. But because the reporting systems of some states--including California--are still transitioning to this new system, the bill will continue to provide support to those jurisdictions through 2012.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget reviewed the Ryan White Program and gave it a perfect score for results and accountability, concluding that it has contributed to the decline in the number of new AIDS cases and deaths due to HIV/AIDS.

The legislation is named after Ryan White, a hemophiliac teenager who died from AIDS after receiving a tainted blood transfusion at the age of 13. After contracting the virus in 1984, White was expelled from his Indiana high school but continued to serve as a strong advocate for AIDS awareness and research until his death in 1990.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.

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