Oct. 2, 2006 – The US Senate failed to reauthorize an AIDS-care funding bill before adjourning last week because lawmakers could not decide how to split up the funds among geographic regions. Lawmakers also failed to add money to the pot to accommodate growing needs.
The Ryan White CARE Act, originally passed in 1990, divides $2.1 billion among states for healthcare coverage for HIV and AIDS patients whose needs are not met by private health insurance and Medicaid.
Instead of increasing funding for AIDS care overall, a rewrite of the bill redirects funds from urban states â€“ which have the highest rates of HIV and AIDS â€“ to rural and Southern states, where the virus is an emerging problem. Currently, AIDS-care funding is determined by only counting patients with "full blown" AIDS. A revision of the billâ€™s language, however, would also count patients living with HIV, the virus that is a prerequisite for AIDS. That change could favor areas where the disease has more-recently emerged as a major problem.
Objections to the bill came from Democrats representing New York, New Jersey and California, who voiced concerns that their states would see a drastic reduction in AIDS-care funding.
AIDS activists expressed disappointment that the bill did not call for an increase in AIDS-care funding, but rather pitted states against each other.
"It's time to end the epidemic of HIV/AIDS," said Katy Caldwell, board chair of AIDS Action Council, in a press statement on Saturday. "This is one America, a country that must make true that no one is left behind, regardless of whether they live in a rural, urban or suburban areaâ€¦." The Council said it will continue to push for the authorization of a more-equitable bill when Congresses reconvenes in November.
In the same week, the House voted 325â€“98 to reauthorize a similar bill.