Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio: Please Champion Ryan White Reauthorization in 2013!
In the four years since the last reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, we have learned that the key to reversing the HIV epidemic in the United States is to eliminate gaps in the HIV care continuum. The continuum consists of the stages of HIV care ranging from knowledge of status, to linkage and retention in care, and ultimately to rendering patients noninfectious by keeping them adherent to HIV treatment. As stated in the July 2013 presidential executive order establishing a new HIV Care Continuum Initiative, federal agencies must work to “prioritize addressing the continuum of HIV care, including by accelerating efforts to increase HIV testing, services, and treatment along the continuum.”
We have a lot of work to do, as the vast majority of Americans with HIV are not in regular care. Of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV/AIDS:
20% don’t know their status
Only 40% see a doctor regularly
Less than 30% have an undetectable level of the HIV virus in their bodies, which renders them noninfectious to others.
Our goal must be to eliminate these gaps, which requires that we prioritize services that do this best: HIV and STD testing, medical case management to help link and retain people in care, and treatment adherence services to keep people healthy and HIV viral loads suppressed.
Reauthorizing the CARE Act to focus on providing these services is critical to achieving this goal. The program already provides HIV testing, linkage and retention services, and treatment adherence services to nearly 50% of all people with the disease in the U.S. With the implementation of health care reform, we need to expand these services because other providers in our healthcare system, such as Medicaid and private insurance, do not cover them and do not have the HIV expertise of the CARE Act.
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Message Subject: Champion Ryan White Reauthorization in 2013
Dear Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio: [Decision Maker],
On behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS in Florida, I am calling on you to lead the charge on the Reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act in 2013. Ryan White is the backbone of Florida’s fight against HIV, providing lifesaving medical care, prevention, and support services to thousands of people statewide.
If we are going to finally turn the tide against HIV/AIDS in America, we need to reauthorize Ryan White so that it is aligned with the best approaches to stopping HIV; testing and treatment. Over the past few years, we have learned that HIV treatment reduces the chances of infection by up to 96%. Therefore, getting people with HIV into care, and keeping them on treatment will be the key to ending AIDS once and for all.
Unfortunately, the most Americans and most Floridians are not linked to or retained in care. Nationwide, 20% of people with HIV/AIDS are still unidentified, and only 40 percent are retained in care. In fact, less than 30% have the HIV virus under control.
In addition, we know that the Affordable Care Act will not provide the same level of services as Ryan White in every state. For example, here in Florida we have not expanded our Medicaid programs making Ryan White as critical as ever for people living with HIV/AIDS. Other states that have expanded Medicaid and set up new insurance exchanges have not included vital HIV services such as testing with linkage to care, and treatment adherence counseling.
To fix this, I am calling on our members of congress from Florida to reauthorize Ryan White this year with changes to ensure that more funding is dedicated to bringing people living with HIV into care and helping them stay on treatment. In addition, I urge you to make sure Ryan White funding follows the HIV epidemic that is growing in Florida and other states across the South so that everyone who is in need of HIV care can get it.
Thank you, and I look forward to your leadership on this issue.