NAACP Commends U.S. Congress for Reauthorizing Ryan White Care Act

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) applauds the passage of the Ryan White CARE Act, while maintaining that more must be done to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic domestically.

On Saturday (Dec. 9) Congressional members passed a compromise for the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act. The compromise addressed concerns surrounding the equitable distribution of federal AIDS funds across the country. Specifically, the potential loss of millions of dollars in HIV/AIDS funding by major urban centers in states such as New York, California, New Jersey and Illinois. The changes passed by lawmakers on Saturday shifts care and treatment resources to rural areas and southern states and now counts patients with the HIV virus in addition to those with AIDS who were traditionally counted in order to allocate resources and funding across states.

The bill that passed Congress codifies provisions that provide for activities that evaluate and address the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS and disparities in access, treatment, care and outcome on racial and ethnic minorities. Valid for the next three years, it also allows for earlier reviews of the formulas for distributing money and eliminates the large dollar cuts in the final years that threatened some areas.

"This is a mixed victory–a short-term solution that in many ways robs Peter to pay Paul" said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "No doubt, the reauthorization of the Ryan White act is crucial in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. However we still have not fully committed to adequately treating everyone with HIV/AIDS in this country. We're still coming up short."

The Ryan White Care Act is core of this nation's AIDS care and treatment strategy and provides treatment and life-saving drugs to more than half a million Americans living with HIV. While new infections have declined among some ethnic groups, the rates of HIV and AIDS cases among African Americans continue to rise. Blacks are less likely to be screened for HIV, more likely to become infected, less likely to get treatment and more likely to die from AIDS. The Ryan White CARE Act is an invaluable source of coverage to those living with HIV/AIDS, specifically those in the black community. Today, more than 50 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections are African Americans.

"Reauthorizing the act for three years keeps the pressure on and will hopefully assist in keeping focus on the real tragedy of this public health crisis," Gordon said. "Increasingly, the face of AIDS in America is Black, we must ensure that the funding and resources allocated to fight this crisis continues to serve the communities that are most in need and most affected.

"When the 110th Congress convenes in 2007, we urge legislators to pass new legislation to increase funding for HIV/AIDS, for rural, suburban and metropolitan areas throughout our nation to demonstrate that the United States is truly serious and committed to stopping its spread and eradicating its presence from our lives," Gordon added.

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