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Aug. 18, 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the legislation that created the most comprehensive federal program that provides services exclusively to people living with HIV.
On Aug. 18, 1990, President Bush signed the groundbreaking Ryan White CARE Act that passed Congress with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. At the time the bill became law, more than 150,000 AIDS cases had been reported in the United States, and more than 100,000 of those people had died.
The law created what is known as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Funded at $2.32 billion in fiscal year 2015, the program works with cities, states, and local community-based organizations to support a coordinated and comprehensive system of care and treatment. More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. The program serves more than 500,000 of those who do not have sufficient healthcare coverage or financial resources to manage the disease. Over the last 25 years, the program has made great strides moving clients along the HIV care continuum, with 81 percent of program clients retained in care and more than 78 percent of those who are retained in care being virally suppressed (i.e., they have very low levels of HIV in their body). Viral suppression is key because it helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and greatly reduces their chances of transmitting HIV to others.
“Over the last quarter century, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program has contributed to remarkable progress for people living with HIV/AIDS,” says Health and Human Services secretary Sylvia M Burwell. “What was once a deadly disease, HIV/AIDS is now a manageable chronic condition because of access to high quality health care and appropriate treatment. Although we have more work to do, particularly in reaching the populations most at risk and disproportionately affected by HIV, we are committed to realizing the President’s vision of an AIDS-free generation.”
“HRSA has worked over the past 25 years to implement this critical public health program, uniting local governments, medical providers, and communities to rapidly expand existing programs and to build new ones to serve the needs of people living with HIV,” said HRSA acting administrator Jim Macrae.
The program was named for a courageous young man diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion. Ryan White fought AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community and educated the nation about his disease. He died only months before Congress passed the legislation in 1990.
Last month, the Administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020, citing the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program as a critical source of lifesaving treatment and support for those with HIV. The program is administered by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Strategy calls for reducing new HIV infections; increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV; reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities; and achieving a more coordinated national response.
To learn more about the 25th anniversary of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, visit hab.hrsa.gov/ryanwhite25.
To learn more about the history of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, visit hab.hrsa.gov/livinghistory.