Friday, March 6, 2015

An "Oscar" Moment for Ryan White Parts C & D

By: Candace Y. A. Montague, Freelance Health Writer

Patricia Arquette had a carpe diem moment at the Oscars recently where she used her moment on stage to draw attention to an issue she cares very deeply about: equal pay for women. Was it the best place to make bold statements about fair pay? Maybe so, maybe not. But the bottom line is she took hold of that time when she had the attention of a large audience and shined some light on a pressing issue that affects women. March is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness month and this is our time to shine some light on an issue that will affect women and families living with HIV. The potential merging of Ryan White Parts C and D.

Patricia Arquette accepts the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Patricia Arquette accepts the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Let's look at Ryan White Part D funding. Ryan White Part D funding provides funding for programs that serve women, infants, youth and families living with HIV. Programs that receive funding from this source provide ambulatory and outpatient care that is centered around women and their families such as primary medical care services, dental services, mental health services, even transportation to bring clinical service providers out into the community. Part C provides similar funding but it's aimed for people living with HIV not just women and their families. It's goal is to provide early intervention services. The President proposes to consolidate these two funding sources in his 2016 budget. This consolidation calls for eliminating Part D services and expanding Part C's budget. Although this seems like a good idea on paper, there are a few important unanswered questions that cause heartburn when we look at them up close.

One part I get stuck on in this proposal is the word "people" in Part C. When previous Part D grantees who serviced women and their families apply or Part C funding, whom will they compete with for precious dollars? What kind of "people" will Part C administrators be looking for to give money? What part of the newly expanded budget is specified for women, children and youth living with HIV? The rules are not quite laid out in the proposal. It's dangerous to have something like funding wide open for applications without a set amount set aside for special populations such as women. This is not to say that other populations don't deserve specific funding. But when one in four people living with HIV are women, the same women that are heads of households across the country, it's pretty clear that they command some extra attention. Also, let's consider that when it comes to keeping these women in care, only about half of them are retained nationally. But Ryan White programs retain 77 percent of the women in their programs. Is there really any question as to why that is?

Protection needs to be the battle cry for NWGHAAD. Women living with HIV need protection now more than ever. We cannot allow language to write them and their needs out of the master plan. Women living with HIV need protection for those dollars that were designated for women-focused services. They need protection for the standing Ryan White Part D programs that won't be eligible to apply for funding if and when this consolidation occurs. They need protection from discrimination by ensuring that all parts of the Ryan White Program will indeed provide women-centered services. Most of all they need the community-based services that have been helping them all along protected from cuts that could cripple their programs.

Wanna get involved? Be a social media advocate. Join in a virtual all-day social media event happening the week after National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: March 17, 2015.

National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
This is designed to be a community-wide event and is sponsored by HIV Advocacy and Awareness and Advocacy Without Borders. They are inviting individuals, agencies, clinics, families, schools, support groups, places of worship, ASOs, and any other organizations, especially HIV advocacy groups and agencies focused on social justice, public health, human rights, etc. to join. From midnight to midnight, cover Twitter with tweets about the importance of retaining these critical family-centered HIV services, using the hashtag #SaveRyanWhitePartD along with any other hashtags relevant to your particular tweet (i.e. #womenshealth, #girlslikeus, etc).

And not just Twitter! You can also help promote this issue by sharing about it on other social media platforms (i.e. Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Tumblr, etc). ANYONE can participate; it is important to have both people living with HIV and allies involved.

Make this your Oscar speech moment to advocate for women living with HIV and Ryan White Part D. Carpe Diem!

Editor's Note: Candace Y. A. Montague is the recipient of the ADAP Advocacy Association's 2014 Media Story of the Year Award for her piece in TheBodyDotCom, "Continuing HIV Care for Formerly Incarcerated U.S. Citizens."

Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates. 

No comments: