Federally funded clinics that serve over half a million people living with HIV/AIDS have asked the Trump administration to waive regulations preventing them from using “their resources and expertise to assist in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.”

In an April 10 letter, Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access (RWC-340B) asked the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to let Ryan White Clinics (RWCs) use program income they get by billing and collecting reimbursement from patients and third-party payers “to pay for the services and supplies needed by patients who have contracted COVID-19 or are at risk of contracting the infection.” Federal regulations prevent RWCs from using program income to provide care to individuals who are not diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. With the restrictions lifted, RWCs could use program income, for example, to test people with and without HIV/AIDS for COVID-19, pay for lab costs or medical supplies related to such tests, and to educate communities about COVID-19 risks, the group said. Waiving program income restrictions, it added, “would not impose any additional costs on the federal government nor would they require legislative action.”

“RWCs have the unique expertise and capacity to address the COVID-19 emergency and to prevent the spread of COVID-19; however, regulatory restrictions currently limit RWCs’ ability to fully leverage their existing resources to assist in this historic fight,” RWC-340B concluded. “A targeted waiver of program income restrictions would allow RWCs to tap into their unique expertise, without the need for additional federal spending or legislation, and would allow them to assist in this historic fight against COVID-19.”

RWC-340B is now enlisting Congress to help relax the restrictions.