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The nation's largest association of HIV medical care providers congratulates the U.S. Senate for passing a much-needed overhaul of the nation's largest collection of HIV/AIDS care programs. The HIV Medicine Association (HIMVA) now urges the House of Representatives to quickly pass the bill to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act before time runs out on the 109th Congress.
Under the bill the Senate passed Tuesday, the first priority of the Ryan White CARE Act is to get patients the medical care they need. "As HIV care providers, we have the tools to save patients' lives," said HIVMA chair Daniel R. Kuritzkes, MD. "We couldn't say that when the first Ryan White CARE Act was passed, in 1990. All that could be done was to help people with HIV with their last days of life. Now, the reauthorized version recognizes the progress we've made and puts patients' health first."
The new bill also begins to respond to changes in the epidemic over the years. HIV/AIDS rates are rising outside their original urban hotspots, in places such as the rural Southeast. The new bill will help to relieve some of the serious disparities in funding for emerging epicenters, without destabilizing funding for places with the largest numbers of cases. "It's essential to care for people with HIV no matter where they live," Kuritzkes said.
Reaching this compromise was a delicate balancing act, and HIVMA congratulates Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) for brokering an agreement now, rather than passing the buck to the next Congress. HIVMA now urges the House of Representatives to quickly pass the bill and send it to the President's desk as soon as possible.
"Whether many people with HIV/AIDS get the care they need will depend on passing this bill. The House needs to move it forward," Kuritzkes said. "The ball is in their court."