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New Approaches (2006–2011)

The world observed the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic in June 2006. Gay men and communities of color were, and continue to be, markedly overrepresented among people living with HIV/AIDS. Gay men account for more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections each year, and nearly 70 percent of new infections are among people of color.1,2 The reasons for this disproportionate impact are not entirely clear, but they appear to be related to socioeconomic issues such as poverty, lack of access to quality health care, high rates of un- and underemployment, and limited educational attainment. These challenges are ones faced by many patients served through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Ryan White clients are predominantly from communities of color and, as the payor of last resort, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program creates a safety net of care to those who might otherwise go without—and creates access to lifesaving medication. In fact, the Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has enabled more than 100,000 people living with HIV/AIDS to access antiretroviral therapy annually.3

Treatment access—and adherence—in conjunction with the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program's high-quality HIV care have meant healthier patients and communities across America. Improving the care of people living with HIV/AIDS, of course, has always been the goal of the program. In the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006, and again in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, the importance of life-saving and life-extending medication was emphasized as was the requirement for providers to focus on essential core medical services.

Looking Forward

In 2010, the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy was released by the White House; it provided a clear roadmap for addressing the epidemic in the United States. The strategy outlines measurable targets to be achieved by 2015.4 HRSA has worked closely with Federal and State agencies on the rollout of this strategy.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub.L. 111–148), which became law on March 23, 2010, will help provide health care coverage to all U.S. citizens when this provision of the law goes into effect in 2014.5 This could create a new influx of patients into the health care system during a time when workforce shortages abound. In HIV, aging patients; more complicated new cases; and retiring seasoned professionals make this issue particularly acute.

Because of this, HRSA is taking several steps ranging from increased HIV management curricula and training opportunities to the establishment of a HRSA-funded Health Workforce Information Center. The goals of these efforts are to continue delivering the highest quality of HIV care to people in need and arming providers with the skills to do so.

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