Today, October 30, 2009, President Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, into law, effectively extending the law that would have expired in December, 2009, for four more years. The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, also known as the Ryan White Care Act, or simply Ryan White Act, was originally enacted by Congress on August 18, 1990. The act was named after Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who was expelled from school after he contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. White went on to fight the expulsion, and became a symbol of the unfair discrimination against those with the illness.
The act is important to emergency responders because it includes a provision authorizing the notification of personnel who may have been exposed to an infectious disease from a source patient, despite the medical confidentiality laws that might otherwise block the release of that information. The 2009 reauthorization enhances the existing requirements, and requires the Secretary of Health & Human Services to develop new regulations to ensure that emergency personnel are informed of the source patient’s status after an exposure. Each emergency medical response organization will be required to assign a “designated officer” who will be responsible to determine whether a responder sustained an exposure, and if so, request information from the medical facility receiving the source patient. The receiving medical facility will be responsible to evaluate the request, and if appropriate provide the designated officer with required information “as soon as practicable, but not later that 48 hours after receiving the request”.
We will have to await the exact language from HHS, but according to a press release issued today by the IAFC, Chief Garry Ludwig, EMS Section chair, is quoted as saying “This legislation is so instrumental to the safety and wellbeing of our firefighters and paramedics, especially during critical times such as this when we see a rise in emerging diseases”.