More than $2.2 billion in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grants were awarded to community organizations across the United States in 2015, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is designed to provide HIV treatment options to the indigent, as well as those without proper health care coverage. The program is named after a teenage boy, Ryan White, who contracted AIDS at the age of 13. His infection came at a time when little information was known about the disease, back in the 1980’s.
White and his mother Jeanne White Ginder went on to become activists, fighting AIDS-related discrimination until his passing five years later in 1990 — a few months before Congress decided to pass the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency (CARE) Act.
Since its inception, the CARE Act has been renamed. It is now known as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Acting Administrator James Macrae said that in the past 25 years, the program has made enormous strides forward. The program is responsible for the creation of community plans that “provide a full range of emergency and long-term services for people living with HIV”, plans that increase the life expectancy of HIV/AIDS patients, and also reduce transmission of the disease.
In 2013, 81 percent of program clients were retained in care and more than 78 percent of those who were in care are virally suppressed. This improves clinical and public health outcomes by preserving health, extending life expectancy, and reducing HIV transmission.
Of the $2.2 billion, $624.7 million was distributed to 53 cities in order to provide emergency care needs in areas with high or increasing populations of people infected with HIV and AIDS.
Another $1.3 billion was given to 59 cities to provide “core medical and support services”, as well as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP supplies medications to treat HIV and AIDS, and some of the funding is used to purchase health insurance for those who are eligible.
To address the needs of women and children, another $66.8 million was donated to community organizations that provides care specific to these demographics.
The remainder of the grant money was awarded for a wide variety of purposes, including training of health care workers, technical assistance, dental care for HIV/AIDS patients, and community educational efforts to deter the same HIV/AIDS discrimination that Ryan White died fighting against.
The program has been invaluable in raising the quality of life for those infected with HIV and AIDS, even for those unable to afford to pay for their health care. Even though there is still no cure for the disease, people with the illness are living longer than they ever have. Part of the reason for this is advances in medication, but the new treatments would be meaningless without programs to increase their availability, such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
In related news, the World Health Organization announced recently that the death rate of tuberculosis surpassed that of HIV and AIDS in 2014.