Don't Wait Until 2012 to Reauthorize RW

September 18, 2008

Ryan didn't back down from a tough fight
Ryan didn't back down from a tough fight
Last week I attended a Federal AIDS Policy Partnership Ryan White Work Group Community Consensus Meeting. But maybe I should not have been allowed at the table. The rules of the invitation stated that "organizations are committed to an extension of the FAPP Ryan White Programs." And neither Housing Works, nor I personally, agree that the current Ryan White Care Act should be allowed to stand until 2012. While I understand concerns the community has, there is no excuse for an outdated, deeply flawed, albeit necessary piece of legislation to remain law for three more years. We can't afford another three years in wait-and-see mode. I believe we should re-write Ryan White in 2009.

I appreciate the fact that maintaining a continuity of care is crucial, and that must be addressed in any legislation. And of course, there can always be more information to make an informed recommendation, but I believe we must plow ahead and do that work given the current environment.

Yes, a lot is going to change with the next administration and Congress, whether it is movement to universal health care under a President Obama or a competitive market-based solution under a President McCain. But the state of government is never going to be static, just like the state of AIDS isn't. We always knew that a new administration would be arriving in 2009, and we were always operating on a premise that this was a hard sunset. How long do we wait until we work together and make a recommendation about what Ryan White should look like? We need to plan for the knowns and anticipate the unknowns. We need to start looking at what Ryan White will look at in a competitive marketplace, or as part of a universal health care system.

In December, the Campaign to End AIDS, NAPWA and CAEAR will be presenting a report about the perspectives of consumers throughout the country, a missing component in the last reauthorization. This collaboration had many starts and stops, differing opinions, and had to address control issues, but we plugged away, stayed engaged and continue to work to develop this collaborative report.

The 2005 reauthorization didn't address the changing epidemic -- the fact that AIDS now has a chronic component and that people are living longer, nor the racial, economic or geographic shifting of the disease. As Ted Kennedy staffer Connie Garner noted at the FAPP meeting, AIDS advocates have not been collaborating with other disability advocates enough. It's time we push this conversation in a different direction.

These are difficult conversations, but these are conversations that have to be had. And as such, it's important that FAPP and those planning the next Ryan White legislation make it an inclusive process. While I don't want the AIDS community tearing itself apart, we need to make sure that differences of opinion are aired out in the open, and that voices of minority opinions are respected.

Some say we only have 13 months. But I say we still have 13 months. Let's keep the conversation going.

Christine Campbell is Housing Works Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing. Send comments to Campbell at

This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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