Congress must reduce disparities in domestic HIV/AIDS Program

National Campaign will urge Congress to address inequalities in the Ryan White CARE Act

WASHINGTON – The National Minority Health Month Foundation (NMHMF) announced yesterday a broad-based national campaign aimed at encouraging the U.S. Congress to support the reauthorization and modernization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act in 2006.

Recent patterns in the United States show that HIV/AIDS increasingly affects African Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities. In 2004, minorities accounted for almost three-fourths of new cases of AIDS in an HIV/AIDS surveillance report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these newly identified AIDS patients, 48 percent were African Americans and 21 percent were Latinos.

The rate also continued to rise among women, who accounted for 27 percent of new AIDS cases in 2004. Of these women newly diagnosed with AIDS, 67 percent were African Americans and 15 percent were Latinas.

“The Ryan White Act is a critically important program in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in the United States,” said NMHMF Executive Director Gary A. Puckrein, PhD. “Our national campaign will focus on encouraging HIV-positive patients and community leaders across the country to urge Congress to address the inequalities of the Ryan White CARE Act.”

These inequalities are vast. The CARE Act’s current focus on legacy communities — many of which are large, densely populated centers, such as New York City — leaves gaps in prevention and treatment efforts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and elsewhere in the country, where incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS are increasing among minority and non minority populations.

“Antiretroviral drugs did not exist when the CARE Act was drafted. We must modernize our HIV/AIDS program both to reflect the changing demographics of this epidemic and to ensure that everyone receives the most advanced treatment and medical care available,” said Dr. Puckrein.

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1998, the National Minority Health Month Foundation was established to strengthen national and local efforts to eliminate the disproportionate burden of premature death and preventable illness in racial and ethnic minorities and other special populations through the use of evidence-based, data-driven initiatives. The Foundation has developed a comprehensive relational data platform for identifying the prevalence of health-status and health-care disparities at the zip-code level.

This centralized data warehouse allows the Foundation to house vital statistics; demographic, environmental, claims, prescription-drug, and clinical-laboratory values; health-care access points, and other data. The Foundation is thus able to measure and forecast health status in small geographic areas, evaluate the impact of specific interventions, monitor changes in health outcomes, and serve as a valuable resource for the health-disparities movement.

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