Commemorating 30 Years of the Ryan White Care Act

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 25, 2020

Commemorating 30 Years of the Ryan White Care Act
  (Source:Getty Images)

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. The legislation, passed in August 1990, meant that anyone living with HIV/AIDS, particularly those most vulnerable to the disease's impact, could access treatment. Without White, it's difficult to know what might have been enacted in place of the CARE Act.

After receiving a blood transfusion, White was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984, at the age of 13, and was only expected to live six months. However, White ended up living another five years, passing away in April 1990 — a month before graduating high school, and a few months before the passage of the CARE Act. White was particularly significant for his positive attitude in the face of battling both AIDS and the stigmas and societal misconceptions surrounding the disease. White wanted to continue attending school, and fought for his right to do so.

White became one of the most prominent non-LGBTQ+ people to be impacted by AIDS, which doubtlessly led to greater education on transmission and susceptibility of the disease on a broad level. Though not entirely — as, according to White's mother, some who shunned science and believed AIDS to be "God's" punishment for homosexuality would impose their unfounded beliefs upon the White family that Ryan must have actually contracted the disease through homosexual activity.

Since the CARE Act was first enacted in 1990, according to Health Resources & Services Administration, "it has been amended and reauthorized four times in 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2009." This led to the formation of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which oversees a larger agenda related to prevention and an eventual end to the disease. In each of those years, amendments were made to remain relevant to the medical services and needs of a given period of time — such as with changes to primary care, medical services to minorities, and assisting and providing service to those who do not know their status. Currently, the Program is part of a larger plan to reduce new infections by 90 percent over the next ten years.

The 2020 National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care & Treatment met from early to mid-August to address topics such as the organization's approach to HIV/AIDS, and in particular ending the HIV epidemic, featuring HRSA Administrator Tom Engels and National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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