09.30.09

HELP Committee Passes Life-Saving HIV/AIDS Act Enzi: Bipartisan Bill Ensures Funds Go to Areas with Greatest Need

Washington, D.C. – The bipartisan Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of2009, approved unanimously today by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions(HELP) Committee, will save lives by ensuring that people with HIV/AIDS across the countrycan get the treatment they need, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) announced.

“Millions of Americans living with HIV/AIDS rely on the Ryan White program to get thetreatment they need. Passing this bill to renew and improve Ryan White will ensure that wecan continue to provide access to life-saving treatment and care across the country,” saidEnzi, Ranking Member of the HELP Committee.

“This bill ensures that federal funds will be spent effectively and will be distributed toareas that need help the most. We are determined to fight the epidemic of today, notyesterday, which means redirecting funds to areas of the country with rising numbers ofpeople living with HIV/AIDS. We have to make sure that the money follows the patients.”The bill approved today by the HELP Committee updates funding formulas andrequires accurate and reliable data reporting, ensuring that funds are allocated fairly to areasof the country with rising HIV/AIDS populations. The bill provides more flexibility to allowgrantees to spend funds effectively. It encourages aggressive testing strategies andestablishes a national HIV/AIDS testing goal of 5 million tests per year.

“I hope that this bill will move quickly through the full Senate and the House to ensurethat there is no disruption in the Ryan White Program,” added Enzi.

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Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Executive Session to consider the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009

September 30, 2009

Good Morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing. Before Ibegin my statement, I would like to congratulate and thank you for taking on theresponsibilities of the Chairmanship of our Committee. It won’t be an easy task. Because ofthe issues we deal with every day, it is tremendously important that we have a Chairman whois determined to follow in the footsteps of Senator Kennedy and continue the bipartisantradition that we have all been a part of for so many years, a tradition with which you are veryfamiliar. It’s altogether fitting and appropriate that we take up this legislation today because itreflects the spirit of progress and a willingness to work across the aisles toward a shared andcommon goal that has been a hallmark of our work in this Committee. I am looking forwardto working with you as Chairman and again, congratulations on your willingness to take onthe reins of leadership of this Committee.

Today we are considering the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of2009. The bill before us will extend the Ryan White reauthorization that was passed by theCommittee with overwhelming support just a few years ago. The last reauthorizationestablished a new framework to ensure that Ryan White funds are distributed to the areasthat need it the most. It exemplifies a simple principle that I have fought for during my serviceas both Chairman and Ranking Member of the HELP Committee: the money should followthe patient.

This bill continues to promote that policy goal through the policies of the bill thatinclude: the phasing out of hold harmless funds, requiring grantees to report accurate andreliable data, and slowly phasing out grantees who no longer meet the eligibility requirementso that funding can be redirected to areas that are increasingly seeing a rise in the number ofindividuals with HIV and AIDS.

It provides grantees more flexibility to ensure that funds are spent effectively, but arenot subject to onerous penalties. It also incorporates important prevention policies thatreward grantees finding undiagnosed individuals and initiating aggressive testing activitiesand strategies. In addition, it includes a national HIV/AIDS testing goal of 5 million tests peryear. Providing 5 million tests will allow us to find half of the undiagnosed individuals in thecountry in 5 years. This is an important part of the reauthorization because - as we continueto aid testing programs abroad and encourage nations to aggressively promote preventionand testing - we need to ensure that the U.S. sets an example by also adopting anaggressive testing strategy. If PEPFAR has a testing goal, then why shouldn’t we have onefor the United States? It has been proven that individuals receiving early treatment are ableto reduce the risk of transmission. In addition, if people are aware of their status they aremore likely to make better lifestyle choices and that will help to reduce the spread of thedisease.

We have come a long way since the inception of the Ryan White program. When Itwas first passed into law on August 18, 1990 it was primarily focused on treatment, but it alsoprovided hospice care and palliative care. It was only 30 years ago that HIV/AIDS was adeath sentence. Today people are able to continue to live fulfilling and rewarding lives. Withthe passage of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 we will not onlyexpand our ability to prevent the disease, but we will continue to provide access to thenecessary treatment and care that individuals need to continue to live a long and productivelife.

I want to thank Chairman Harkin, Senator Dodd and Senator Coburn for their hardwork on this bill and their determination that we will not allow politics to delay the progressthat this important program has made in the effort to provide the necessary care andtreatment to individuals every day. I also want to thank my colleagues on the Committee fortheir support and for their patience during this process.

In addition to Ryan White, I understand that today we have three nominees who havegone through the Committee vetting process. They are Brenda Dann-Messier, AssistantSecretary for Vocational and Adult Education at the Department of Education; Alexa Posny,Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at Education; andGeorge Cohen; Director for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services. I recommendthat these nominees move forward so they can receive floor consideration, and I amcomfortable with a voice vote for each. This brings the total number of nominees confirmedby the Committee to 32 since January.

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