Ryan White And The Forefront of HIV Care

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For over 30 years, Ryan White programs have led the nation in HIV care. Today, nearly half of all HIV-positive individuals in the US rely on Ryan White for their health needs. Organizations providing this care are comprehensive in their approach and focus on helping low-income communities.

Ryan White Programs

Over 30 years ago, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act created the largest federal funding program to help low-income individuals receive HIV care. Today, it provides care to over half of all HIV-positive individuals in the US. 

The Ryan White Federal Organization is named after a thirteen-year-old boy from Indiana. White fought discrimination when he was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984. He fought this discrimination until his death from the disease in 1990. As part of his legacy, Congress enacted the CARE Act to serve as a safety net for HIV health care.

“The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program has been a cornerstone of the public health response to HIV in the United States for the last three decades,” says US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

“What was once a deadly disease is now a manageable chronic condition, and we see that in the success of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, with the vast majority of its clients reaching viral suppression.”

The Need for Low-Income Care

There are approximately 1.2 million people in the US living with HIV. The CDC estimates that about 13%—or over 150,000—do not even know they are HIV-positive. Unfortunately, this information asymmetry most often occurs among low-income individuals with adverse social determinants of health.

Several low-income, urban areas in the US have an infection rate of 2.1%. This rate is well above the 1% determined by the CDC to define as an epidemic, and is comparable to rates in many developing countries. 

A study in 2014 found that while most chronic diseases fall on a socio-economic and health gradient, HIV almost exclusively affects those living at or below the poverty line. This finding suggests that HIV is inseparably enmeshed with other social issues, and as such needs a whole person care approach. Large-scale solutions for ending the spread of HIV are best achieved through coordination between all community leaders and programs. 

The prevalence of HIV in low-income communities speaks to the need for Ryan White programs. Without the funding support of Ryan White, expensive HIV care would simply be inaccessible for nearly half of all infected patients.

What Ryan White Provides

Ryan White funding helps organizations provide sexual health services for those most at risk of contracting HIV (like men who have sex with men and injection drug users). But, they also provide treatment for those who are already positive, including medications that help patients become undetectable*.

Although, care does not end with medications. HIV is a life-altering diagnosis and needs to be addressed as such. The stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV-positive individuals is still significant in US communities. It calls for comprehensive care, including:

  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Workforce Development Aid
  • Disability Navigation
  • Nutrition Services
  • Case Management
  • Substance Abuse Treatment

Ryan White programs have the ability to address each of these needs.

*Undetectable means an individual who is HIV-positive has a low enough quantity of the disease that they cannot transmit it. Undetectable = untransmittable.

Ryan White and Case Management

Case management is central to addressing the multi-faceted needs of HIV-positive patients. Ryan White programs are most successful when they coordinate with other community resources to provide the most robust care for their patients. Case management platforms like ClientTrack™ allow for seamless integration between care providers while keeping the patient at the focus.

Eccovia recently released a case study highlighting how one organization utilizes ClientTrack to offer HIV services to their community. You can read up on their efforts here.

While the road to eradicating HIV is long, it is possible because of Ryan White programs. The more communities can help educate about services for HIV-positive individuals, the more we can help change the course for those living with the disease.

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Sources Used:

  1. https://hab.hrsa.gov/about-ryan-white-hivaids-program/about-ryan-white-hivaids-program
  2. https://healthcare.utah.edu/infectiousdiseases/ryan-white-program.php
  3. https://kutv.com/news/local/celebrating-30-years-of-the-ryan-white-care-act
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK216136/
  5. https://www.kff.org/hivaids/fact-sheet/the-ryan-white-hivaids-program-the-basics/
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/poverty.html
  7. https://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/hiv-aids

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