WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today strongly criticized Ryan White CARE Act funding levels contained in the latest budget package drafted by Congress in order to meet the restrictions of President George W. Bush's spending target for next year. The fiscal year 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education appropriations bill, which passed the House today and is expected to be introduced in the Senate tomorrow, includes only a slight overall increase of $29 million for this $2.17 billion program-not even enough to keep pace with inflation. This negligible increase comes on the heels of widespread reports that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is poised to release new data showing up to a 50% increase in the rate of new HIV infections.
"The essentially flat AIDS funding proposed in this latest budget comes at a time when the infection rate is 25 to 50% higher than originally thought, demonstrating the government's unfortunate neglect of this country's growing AIDS epidemic," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. "The intention of the updated reauthorized Ryan White bill was to make the funding allocations more equitable. Unfortunately, the result of this latest funding proposal is that small states will receive less money to combat their growing epidemics. We urge Congress and the White House to re-think the proposed CARE Act funding levels and to provide the funds necessary to mount an adequate response. Net decreases in AIDS spending at this crucial time will guarantee the continued growth of this country's epidemic."
The Ryan White CARE Act, the nation's primary funding mechanism to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to Americans in need, was reauthorized last year after a lengthy, bi-partisan process that resulted in a long-overdue updating of the bill to address funding inequities. Before the update, greater funds were being distributed to metropolitan areas that were hardest-hit by the epidemic in its earliest days, while leaving regions with newer epidemics (such as rural communities in the Southern states) without adequate funding.
"Over one million Americans have HIV, yet less than half receive treatment, and over 250,000 people don't even know they have HIV," said Dr. Homayoon Khanlou, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Chief of Medicine. "The modernized and reauthorized CARE Act passed by Congress and signed into law late last year dramatically increases the opportunities for people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the U.S. to obtain medical care and receive lifesaving antiretroviral drug treatments. Unfortunately, the proposed budget could result in decreased access to medical care and services in the very areas of the country that need it most-often rural areas that are facing rapidly increasing infection-rates."
Included in the proposed budget is a $19 million increase in funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)-the primary funding source to provide medications to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS-at the expense of funding to states for essential medical care services needed to deliver treatment with a cut of $19.25 million to the Part B Base amount.
"The only winners in this budget are the pharmaceutical companies, which Congress just made $19 million richer," added Weinstein. "Increasing monies for medications while decreasing the funding necessary to ensure the deliver of that treatment is short-sighted. We as a nation will pay for this bad public health policy decision in increased HIV infections as well as an increase in the funds that will be needed to treat those individuals."
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 19 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org
|SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation|
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