Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thank You, Ryan White; ADAP Saves Lives

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In 1984, during the midst of the public hysteria over the emergence of AIDS in the United States, it was a 13-year old boy from Indiana who defined the courage of a nation. That young boy's name was Ryan White.

(To learn more about Ryan's story, click here)

Decades later, we honor that young boy from Indiana by celebrating the passage of the law named after him: Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. As the nation's only public healthcare program specifically designed to provide supports and services for people living with HIV/AIDS, it is hard to truly measure the impact it has had in linking patients to timely, appropriate care and treatment. Simply put; it has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since 1990!

A key component of the Ryan White CARE Act is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which funds access to medications for the treatment of HIV-infection. Amendments to the law over the years have added additional language allowing ADAP funds to be used to purchase health insurance for eligible clients, as well as to pay for services that enhance access, adherence, and monitoring of drug treatments. Today, ADAP serves as model government program.

ADAP enjoys broad bi-partisan support. The program continues to receive more federal dollars annually (albeit far less than what is needed) despite budget austerity in Congress. It is routinely recognized as a cost-efficient, taxpayer-funded program. As recent as last month, we learned that ADAPs have also assisted in the success of the Affordable Care Act's implementation (Editor's Note: read our last blog, 68,000 Patients Obtained ACA Insurance Coverage, Thanks to ADAP).

The virtue's of the law were spelled out in an Op-Ed penned by Sean Cahill, PhD and Kenneth Mayer, MD. They call for additional federal and state funding, more front-line public health training, better culturally competent and nondiscriminatory care, and increased program coordination. The ADAP Advocacy Association agrees!

Yet, despite the progress of the last few decades there still remains an underlying barrier preventing access to care for far too many. That barrier is stigma. It is the very same stigma that Ryan White confronted while attending Western Middle School in Indiana some 31 years ago.

According to the SERO Project, currently there are over thirty States across the nation with "HIV-specific" statutes criminalizing some aspect of HIV/AIDS. Even in States without an HIV-specific statute, people living with HIV/AIDS are still at risk of prosecution under other criminal statutes.

Map of the United States showing states with HIV-specific criminalization laws. Learn more at
Source: SERO Project
As we celebrate the extraordinary life of a 13-year boy who won over the hearts of a nation (and helped to educate them, too), as well as the law named after him to help the people living with the same disease, let's remember there is much more work to be done!

Thank you, Ryan White!