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At the Executive Session on the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009

“Today marks an important milestone in our ongoing national struggle with HIV and AIDS. Twenty-eight years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about the disease we now know as AIDS. Today, we mark the fourth reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, the most comprehensive legislation for the prevention and treatment of HIV and the AIDS virus.

“In those early days, we failed on all levels – in government, in business, and in the media – to recognize the danger posed by this disease. While its victims suffered in silence and stigma, those who had the power to help shamefully did nothing. “But then a young boy’s courage awoke the nation to the very real consequences of AIDS. Suddenly, a disease that seemed so distant was in our homes every day, and we could no longer claim that AIDS was someone else’s problem. The nation realized it was a virus that knows no color, religion, political affiliation, or income status. And I think Ryan White would be proud of the effort we are putting forth today with this bipartisan compromise we’ve worked so hard on.

“I would like to thank Ranking Member Senator Enzi and Senators Dodd and Coburn and their staffs for all their hard work on this bill over the past few weeks. This bill is an excellent example of bipartisanship which I hope will continue on in all our Committee work. I would also like to recognize and thank Senator Hatch --- who was the original sponsor of this bill, along with Senator Kennedy in the 1990, and has continued working on this all important issue. What a difference this legislation has made to so many people living with HIV/AIDS.

“But we still have a long way to go. Many who live with HIV and AIDS do not have insurance coverage to pay for costly treatments. As a result, heavy demands are placed on community- based organizations and state and local governments. For these Americans, the Ryan White CARE Act continues to provide the only means to obtain the care and treatment they need. It doesn’t matter where they live.

“With this bill we take another continuing step towards the development of a truly national plan that:

Preserves access to life-saving medications, quality health care, and support services for persons living with HIV and AIDS who have come to depend on publicly-funded systems;

Extends this system of quality care to persons with HIV and AIDS who have faced waiting lists for medications and severe limits on their access to specialty health care;

Protects governmental and community-based institutions charged with providing this care as all face growing case loads and the more challenging needs of an evolving population of persons with HIV/AIDS;

Balances the needs of high-prevalence cities and states with those experiencing rapidly growing epidemics;

Ensures that those who have been relying on their local system of care that it will continue to be there for them; and

Reassures individuals seeking testing for HIV that comprehensive care and support will also be ready to serve them.

“This bill takes the finest HIV/AIDS care system, one we as a nation should be proud to hold up as the gold standard of care for the world, makes it also the fairest system of care: one that promises equitable access, common levels of quality, and guaranteed continuity of care.”

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