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HIV Policy Experts Offer Recommendations for Updating the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

MEDIA CONTACT: KAREN TEBER (KM463@GEORGETOWN.EDU)

WASHINGTON (JUNE 26, 2015) —Leading HIV/AIDS experts today issued recommendations for ensuring that the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is updated to be maximally effective in a changing health care environment. The series of three policy briefs (http://bit.ly/ryanwhitepolicyproject) are designed to help the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders conceptualize structural changes to the program, and also to help HIV community stakeholders identify opportunities for improving engagement in care by adapting the critical program.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, enacted by Congress in 1990 and most recently reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in 2009, is a federally funded program that provides lifesaving HIV treatment and critical health services to uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV in the United States. Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the program supports an estimated 536,000 people with HIV each year. The program was funded at $2.32 billion in fiscal year 2014.

“The Ryan White program is the glue that holds together the disparate parts of the HIV care response in the United States,” says Jeffrey S. Crowley, program director of the National HIV/AIDS Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and the lead author of the reports. “A common question is whether this care and treatment program is still needed now that access to insurance has been expanded, and the resounding response is ‘yes’,” he says. Crowley served as the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy in 2009 when President Obama signed the last authorization for the program.

“This is a time of perhaps unprecedented opportunity to increase engagement in care in a way that better supports all people with HIV in the U.S. to access treatment and achieve effective suppression of the HIV virus,” he explains. “By doing so, it keeps people healthy and also reduces HIV transmission.” Congress is expected to consider the program’s reauthorization and future direction in the coming years.

“When Members of Congress reflect on the gains we continue to make in the fight against HIV because of the impact of the Ryan White program, and when they see how modest changes can strengthen engagement in care and support better alignment of the Ryan White program with insurance coverage, I believe that a bipartisan path forward to reauthorization can be found. The Ryan White program is a true testament to the success of providing integrated healthcare,” says report co-author Connie Garner, policy director at Foley Hoag Law Firm.  Garner staffed the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy on HIV/AIDS issues for over 10 years as his policy director for disability and special populations, including during the last two reauthorizations of the Ryan White program.

Crowley says that research shows that insurance coverage matters, but, in 2010, more than 70 percent of Ryan White Program clients had Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. They needed support from the Ryan White program because of financial gaps and inadequate coverage for case management, transportation and other critical services to help keep people with HIV engaged in care.

The reports released today, the first of three for the ongoing Ryan White Policy Project at the O’Neill Institute, addressed three critical topics:

Aligning the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program with Insurance Coverage

Originally built as a standalone system, the Ryan White program has evolved to a complement to the insurance system. Nonetheless, as the health system seeks to better integrate services and design more effective and efficient care delivery models, this report offers strategies for better aligning the Ryan White program with insurance to ensure that people with HIV do not get left behind.

Refining Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Administrative Activities to Increase Population-Level Impact

The Ryan White program has always looked and acted differently than other parts of the health system.  This report provides recommendations for ways to streamline existing planning and monitoring activities to retain critical aspects of community engagement. It also forcefully calls for increased Ryan White program investments to build health department data management systems and capacity to better partner with Medicaid, Medicare, health plans, and HIV prevention programs to monitor engagement in care and intervene when care is interrupted.

Bolstering the HIV Clinical and Non-Clinical Workforce

Generations of dedicated HIV care providers and community partners have built today’s HIV care system. While more must be done to better reach underserved populations and communities, the need is great to bolster and sustain the existing HIV care workforce. This report offers recommendations for building upon recent changes to the AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) program and other efforts to support clinical and non-clinical providers. 

These reports were informed by consultations with people living with HIV, HIV medical and non-medical providers, Ryan White grantees, and federal HIV policy and program staff. The Ryan White Policy Project is supported by funding from Gilead Sciences, Inc. The report was prepared by Crowley and Garner. Crowley reports no recent personal financial interests related to the report.  Garner is policy director for Foley Hoag representing Gilead Sciences.

About the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law

The generous philanthropy of Linda and Timothy O’Neill established the O’Neill Institute in 2007 to respond to the need for innovative new solutions to the most pressing national and international health concerns. Housed at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C., the O’Neill Institute reflects the importance of public and private law in health policy analysis. The O’Neill Institute draws upon the University's considerable intellectual resources, including the School of Nursing & Health Studies, the School of Medicine, the McCourt School of Public Policy, and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.

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