The Ryan White Care Act—the prime funding source for HIV/AIDS treatment assistance—is due to sunset this year. The strongest advocate for RWCA, Senator Ted Kennedy, not long before his death fought a hard fight to update the law. The fight to update the law was unsuccessful due to a highly contentious battle among the various HIV/AIDS factions and other exigencies, so he agreed to reauthorize the law and live with its significant difficulties as long as the law was amended to add a sunset provision in 2014 so it could be revised to better support the current HIV/AIDS population’s modern treatment needs.
Now is not just the statutory time for this debate. This is the debate that Senator Kennedy new needed to be engaged. When Ryan White Care Act was first passed, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, expected life span was eight years, the disease was little understood, and the few treatments available for those afflicted were painful, expensive and ineffective at best. The epidemic was rising fast and was no longer seen as the “gay” plague since it was infecting non-gay segments of the population often through the nation’s blood supply.
Today much has changed, but mostly the needs of patients have changed drastically since the passage of this bill. People with HIV/AIDS are no longer facing a death sentence to be sure but they do face a life-time chronic condition that is significantly more expensive than most can afford. Research has provided many new treatments and most are much more effective. New discoveries hold hope for better therapies and even the word cure has been used a few times on specific sets of patients.
Along with the major therapeutic advances, for individual patients, the longer life living with the disease also brings a number of co-morbidities that wreak additional havoc on victim’s health and pocketbook. Further, now that the Affordable Care Act is law HIV/AIDS patients no longer are barred from getting insurance due to their diagnosis, so their economic needs have shifted significantly. Now is the time for the debate that Senator Kennedy wanted before he died. Now is the time to modify the Ryan White Care Act to better allocate funds for the effective management of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as it stands today. We need this debate to identify the modern needs of the affected to gain a better more targeted approach to the effective and proper support of patients and treatment of this disease.
Write your congressperson and tell them to re-open the debate on the Ryan White Care Act.