Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who became an internationally recognized advocate for people with AIDS until his death in 1990, urged Congress this week to continue funding the AIDS program that bears her son’s name.
At a news conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday, White-Ginder joined leaders of the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy organization, in calling on Congress to approve a $2.3 billion funding package proposed by President Obama for the Ryan White CARE Act program for fiscal year 2015.
“When Ryan was a teenager living with AIDS in the early 1990s there was little the medical community could offer him, but we tried all we could,” White-Ginder said. “Today, with proper treatment, thanks to antiretroviral medications, people living with HIV can live relatively healthy lives if they are first tested and linked to and retained in care,” she said.
“I’m in Washington to urge members of Congress to fully fund the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program so the more than half a million people currently being helped by the program continue to receive life-saving care and the ones who are not can take advantage of AIDS treatment,” White-Ginder told the news conference.
Michael Ruppal, executive director of the AIDS Institute, and Carl Schmid, the group’s deputy executive director, said the healthcare reform program proposed by Obama and passed by Congress known as the Affordable Care Act has provided private insurance coverage for many people previously enrolled in various Ryan White programs.
But the two said gaps remain in health coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS under the Affordable Care Act. They said the Ryan White programs – especially the prescription drug program known as ADAP – are critical components to the overall care needed for at least 550,000 people currently enrolled in Ryan White programs.
Schmid said the Ryan White program, among other things, is helping low-income people who obtain private insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act pay for something that healthcare reform advocates initially didn’t expect from the so-called Obamacare program – high co-payments for prescription drugs and high deductible costs for medical treatment such as doctor visits.
White-Ginder and representatives of the AIDS Institute were scheduled to visit members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon to urge them to push for passage of the Ryan White appropriations package that the Senate passed earlier this year.
Among the lawmakers with whom they were expected to meet were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the committee’s ranking minority member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who are members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health.
“For almost 25 years, the program has helped save countless lives,” White-Ginder said at the news conference. “I am here for Ryan to remind our leaders that we cannot forget him or the 650,000 others who have died of AIDS and the over 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the U.S.”
Added White-Ginder, “It is my hope that during my visit to Capitol Hill, they will listen to the story of a mother and her son and the hope that people with HIV have today if they have access to the medical care, medications and other services that are offered through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.”