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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 22, 2005

Ohio AIDS agencies call for Ryan White fund increases

Columbus--Presenting a united front, the five largest AIDS agencies in Ohio on July 13 called for the federal government to reauthorize the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act with more money.

Their letter of recommendations was signed by executive directors Aaron Riley of the Columbus AIDS Task Force, Bill Hardy of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, Earl Pike of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Victoria Brooks of AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati and Kevin Sullivan of the Ohio AIDS Coalition.

The Ryan White CARE Act, named for a teenager who died of AIDS in 1990, helps fund services and treatment for people with the disease. It must be reauthorized by Congress periodically; the current bill runs out on September 1.

The House of Representatives has already approved a Ryan White act with no funding increases. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies on July 12 approved only a $10 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, while leaving all other funding the same.

AIDS service organization leaders note that an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars is necessary for the ADAP program, especially after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased their estimates of the number of people with HIV in the nation to over 1.1 million earlier this year.

The statement by the Ohio AIDS organization directors laid out four core principles that should be taken into account when re-authorizing the Ryan White act.

First, the funding must be enough to accomplish its goals.

�Today�s funding does not account for the nearly 250,000 people living with HIV in the United State who do not currently access any services,� said Pike. �If we are going to continue to push to get individuals into systems of care and treatment--which has been the needed emphasis--we need to ensure that those services will be available.�

In addition to securing enough funding for services, those services must be available no matter where they are needed.

�The equity should be there across state lines, and within states,� Hardy noted. �People living with HIV in San Francisco and in southern U.S. cities, people living within rural areas and in major metropolitan areas, should have the same access to critical services.�

�Paying for medication is not enough,� said Brooks, noting the need for ancillary services like case management. �If individuals do not have support services that will help them actually access medical care, then we essentially have a full medicine cabinet in a locked room.�

The final principle is that the legislation should not take away the power of local organizations and municipalities to make decisions based on their own needs.

The group pointed to abstinence-only-until-marriage support in the federal government as something that could endanger the effectiveness of local services.

�The strength of the CARE Act has been its unwillingness to impose burdensome cookie-cutter mandates on state and local initiatives,� Riley stated. �Even here in Ohio, there are vast differences across the state, and we need to respect those differences.�

The National Association of People with AIDS six days later released similar principles, urging that the Ryan White CARE Act not �become a vehicle for legislating on controversial social issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention.�

They also call for �supporting the dignity and independence of people living with HIV/AIDS by enhancing their role in all aspects of the CARE Act.�

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