President George W. Bush signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006 into law on Dec. 19, 2006, officially reauthorizing the Ryan White CARE Act until Sept. 30, 2009. Joseph Interrante, CEO of Nashville CARES, Middle Tennessee’s HIV/AIDS Service organization, expressed his relief Tuesday, Dec. 9, when he received the news.
“The reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act will greatly help people living with HIV/AIDS in Tennessee. The bill contains some long-overdue reforms that will provide additional funds to Nashville and Tennessee. Additional funds are especially needed in light of the Tenncare cuts last year. They will help to preserve the system of care we have worked so hard to build over the past decade.”
“There is still work to be done” Interrante cautioned. “Congress must now provide the necessary funding to make the CARE and its life-saving programs a reality for people. For the past five years CARE Act funding has actually been cut despite a steady increase in the number of HIV-infected individuals and families who rely upon its programs for treatment and care. This trend must be reversed."
Interrante added: “Here in Tennessee, the state must step up to the plate to carry its fair share of the burden of care for Tennesseans living with HIV disease. That means support by the Governor and Legislature for the highest possible level of state funding for HIV/AIDS—at least $7 million if not more. It’s a cost-effective investment for Tennessee.”
As of Dec. 2005, 4,600 Middle Tennesseans were living with AIDS or HIV infection (70% of them in Davidson County). This represents 35% of the 13,000 Tennesseans living with HIV disease statewide statewide. Experts believe that another 25%–almost 1,200 in Middle Tennessee–are living with HIV/AIDS but do not know they are infected. The epidemic is increasing and renewed efforts are being made to identify those who are not currently diagnosed so they can begin care and treatment.
Here in Davidson County, Nashville CARES provides HIV counseling and testing in a variety of nontraditional settings and links those who are infected with medical care. The agency also provides a wide range of practical, financial and clinical support services to people with HIV disease to ensure that they make optimal use of care available to them. All programs and services are free of change. For more information please their Web site at www.nashvillecares.org.