WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce passed a bill to reauthorize the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act. The program provides critical care and treatment to more than half a million low-income Americans with HIV and AIDS.
First passed in 1990, the CARE Act has enjoyed wide bipartisan support from Congress and the Bush administration as a tool to address the gaps left by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and other publicly financed health care systems. It is the largest source of federal funding devoted exclusively to the treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The program's current authorization expired on Sept. 30, 2005. Funding to provide services to HIV-positive individuals has continued through the current fiscal year, but failure to renew the act by Oct. 1, 2006, would jeopardize continuity of funding for many Ryan White programs.
"With today's action, Congress now moves one step closer to reauthorizing this crucial program. It is a vital lifeline of services and support for people living with HIV/AIDS all over the country," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
HRC remains deeply concerned about the inadequate funding authorizations in the bill and the failure of Congress to appropriate sufficient funds to offset potential losses for communities such as New York and San Francisco. "Congress must increase funding for the CARE Act so that no community's system of care is destabilized. Reauthorization should not result in winners and losers," added Solmonese.
HRC singled out for praise the leadership and hard work of Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and John Dingell, D-Mich., and their staff who worked in a bipartisan, bicameral process to create a compromise bill.
HRC Political Director Samantha Smoot pointed out that, thanks to HRC's active involvement throughout the entire process, the reauthorization bill is free of any discriminatory anti-gay or anti-HIV provisions. "We are pleased that this legislation was not used for overt anti-gay political games," she said.
The bill now goes to the full Senate and House for their approval before it can go to the president's desk for his signature.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that GLBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
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