The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Recourses Emergency (CARE) Act is the backbone of HIV treatment and support in the United States. In existence since 1990, the CARE Act is a block grant to states by the federal government that subsidizes a diverse set of services, but most importantly of all, ensures access to the life-saving medications available to people with HIV that generally keep them from suffering and death.
The Act needs to be reauthorized every five years and the appropriations for it are always a juggling act between the House, the Senate and the Administration. This summer, the Senate appropriated an amount that was less than the Administration’s proposals in most categories. The House only voted an increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Reauthorization of the Act has not occurred and the House has adjourned until September, with the Senate following them out of town later this week. As appropriations now stand, it would appear that given the increase in costs, there is less to spend per patient than before.
This Congress is notable for their nearly do-nothing status, having produced less output than most of its predecessors. Of course, they have been very busy raising re-election funds and attending fund-raisers for one another. And then there was the important issue of a gay marriage amendment to the Constitution that had to be taken up despite the fact that the Senate had already rejected the ban. There was also that flag burning issue.
I suppose it is a matter of priorities, but it is truly ironic that, as the world gathers week after next for the biennial International AIDS Conference to be held in Toronto the third week of August, that the United States Congress has failed to act to support its own domestic infrastructure for care.