Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the top Democrat for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, joined with local HIV/AIDS advocates and a client of Ryan White services at the offices of Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in Newark, New Jersey to announce his legislation that will maintain vital funding for the Ryan White program to continue serving the HIV/AIDS community in New Jersey and provide essential care that allows these individuals to live longer and more prolific lives. The Ryan White program is set to expire in September of this year, and Pallone's legislation calls for current law to remain in place until Congress works to reauthorize the program.
"Unfortunately, New Jersey ranks highly in the nation for its number of reported HIV/AIDS cases, but the Ryan White program helps to provide critical medical care and support services for those who would otherwise have no means of paying for it," said Congressman Pallone. "The Ryan White program improves the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable residents, and we must protect current levels of funding so we don't put patient care and lives at risk."
The Ryan White CARE Act was first passed in 1990 and is named for a young boy who contracted the HIV virus from a blood transfusion and lost his life. It is the single largest federal program designed specifically for people with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The program works with cities, states, and local community-based organizations to provide HIV/AIDS-related services to more than half a million people each year. It provides care and support services to individuals and families affected by the disease, functioning as the "payer of last resort" by filling the gaps for those who have no other source of coverage or face coverage limits.
In New Jersey, more than 36,000 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS. For more than a decade, Ryan White funding levels for Newark, New Jersey, and other cities and states with high levels of HIV/AIDS cases have been protected under "hold harmless" provisions, which prevent drops in funding from year to year. Providers serving Ryan White clients need consistent levels of funding to be successful in order to plan for the future. Without "hold harmless," large shifts in funding can be destabilizing and lead to gaps in the provision of primary care and support services.
Current "hold harmless" levels of Ryan White funding are at risk of being eliminated if Congress does not reauthorize the program when it is set to expire in September of this year. Pallone's legislation, the Ryan White Extension Act of 2013, extends these important "hold harmless" provisions to ensure that program funding levels are not jeopardized for New Jersey, Newark, and other cities and states with high numbers of HIV/AIDS cases.
In Fiscal Year 2012, the State of New Jersey and Newark received $902,132 and $1,488,476 respectively in Ryan White funding from "hold harmless" provisions.
Joining Congressman Pallone today in Newark was: Kathy O'Brien of Hyacinth AIDS Foundation; Gary Paul Wright of African American Office of Gay Concerns; Patryce Burgess, New Jersey Women and AIDS Network; Brian McGovern, North Jersey Community Research Initiative; and James Carrington, a client of Ryan White services.