Why the LGBT Community Still Needs the Ryan White Program


Why the LGBT Community Still Needs the Ryan White Program


Recent estimates of new HIV infections, or HIV incidence, suggest that HIV continues to be a severe problem in the United States. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, approximately 47,500 people in the United States contracted HIV in 2010. Compared to 2008, HIV incidence stayed relatively stable in most groups, even decreasing by 21 percent (from 7,700 infections to 6,100 infections) among black women. The statistics among men who have sex with men, or MSM,* and transgender women, however, did not improve to the same degree. There was even a significant increase in HIV incidence among black MSM and transgender women.

For all individuals living with HIV, and especially those populations with increased infection rates, reauthorization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, also known simply as the Ryan White program, is crucial. Ryan White is the largest federal programthat provides treatment specifically for people living with HIV/AIDS. If the Ryan White program is not reauthorized, many people living with HIV will face serious and possibly life-threatening consequences, such as gaps in care not met by other payers and decreased access to medical treatment and services from health care providers.

This column details the Ryan White program and why it is particularly helpful to the LGBT community, specifically MSM and transgender women.

HIV incidence among MSM and transgender women continues to increase

MSM remain the population most affected by HIV infection. The CDC estimates that, “MSM represent approximately 4% of the male population in the United States” but comprised 63 percent of all new HIV infections in 2010. Young black MSM accounted for more new infections in 2010 than any other subgroup by race/ethnicity, age, and sex.

In the United States, transgender communities are also at the highest risk of HIV prevalence. Many socioeconomic and health-related factors contribute to the HIV epidemic in the transgender community, including homelessness, unemployment, attempted suicide, violence, stigma, and limited access to health care, among others. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, transgender women reportedly have “over four times the national average of HIV infection, with rates much higher among transgender women of color.” Specifically, the infection rate of transgender women was 2.6 percent in 2009, compared to 0.6 percent for the general population.

Providing assistance for care, treatment, and support services to people living with HIV would be nearly impossible without Ryan White funding. In light of the increasing incidence rates among MSM and transgender women, supporting the reauthorization of the Ryan White program should be a priority for the LGBT community, as the program is an essential step in reducing LGBT health disparities.

The Ryan White program has served more than 500,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States

Enacted in 1990, the Ryan White program has become an increasingly critical part of the health care system in the United States, playing a vital role in providing funding to people living with HIV/AIDS for health care and support services. The program provides these funds by functioning as the “payer of last resort,” filling in coverage gaps for more than half a million people who may have no other sources of coverage such as Medicaid, Medicare, or a private health care provider. → READ MORE HERE

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