Velazquez Presses Federal Health Officials on AIDS Patients Treatment in Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) issued the following statement today following a Thursday meeting with Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator, Elizabeth Duke:
“I met yesterday with HRSA Administrator Elizabeth Duke regarding HIV/AIDS patients in Puerto Rico. In a June 20th reply letter to me and Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Ms. Duke pledged that her office will provide on-site technical assistance to the Mayor of San Juan and the Governor of Puerto Rico in administering their Ryan White Program funds. While this is a small step in the right direction, it is clear that more needs to be done to fully address this situation.
“People are in need of critical care and medication. One of the purposes of this meeting was to ensure HRSA understands that time is of the essence. Many lives are currently at risk— we must move beyond words and take immediate action.
“During our meeting the Administrator made a commitment to provide my office, in the coming weeks, with a short term action agenda to tackle issues raised by the community based organizations in Puerto Rico. I expect that this is the first in a series of dialogues, and involvement of my office, with the HRSA Administrator in which expedited solutions can be put in place to benefit the HIV/AIDS patients in Puerto Rico.
“In addition to more aggressive oversight at the federal level, we also need to increase funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Puerto Rico and for high risk minority communities across the nation. The HIV Emergency Local Partnership Act of 2007 (H.R. 2736), which I introduced last week in the House, would inject an additional 50 million dollars into the Ryan White grant budget to provide comprehensive services to minority populations. It would also lift Medicaid funding restrictions that impair the Puerto Rico’s ability to provide critical health care to patients.”
Earlier this month, Congresswomen Velázquez and Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) calling for an investigation and report on the state of affairs of treatment for HIV/AIDS patients in Puerto Rico. The request is available online.