Let's Make It Routine

Around ASF Blog
Volume 1 / Entry 12
April 26, 2012

Hello friends,

Thanks to groups like ACT UP, we have long known that Silence, in regard to HIV/AIDS, Equals Death. A few weeks ago in this blog, I updated that slogan to Silence Equals Stigma. The fact that we don’t talk about HIV/AIDS regularly, say, the way breast cancer is mentioned for all of October during every NFL football game, makes it harder to stop the spread of the virus. If HIV was more routine in our lives, people would talk about it more, lessen the stigma, and make it easier to prevent.

Well, now, thanks to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), a bill is once again before lawmakers in Washington that would require health insurance plans to cover routine HIV tests under the same terms and conditions as other routine health screenings. The bill, known as the “Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act (HR4470),” has previously been before Congress during the 110th and 111th sessions, but has never been made law.

“The ‘Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act’ seeks to bring national health policy in line with the science that shows that HIV testing and linkage to treatment is the best way to prevent new infections” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in a release from the organization. The local success of the “in+care Campaign” is testament to that. Through efforts in that campaign, ASF has helped raise the number of Orange County patients expressing a suppressed viral load from 79.6% in mid-December to a reported 90.7% as of February 1. Unless people know their status, they cannot receive the care they need to stay healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the source of most new infections are the 250,000 people living in the US who are unaware they are HIV positive. If we, as a society, were able to finally identify the majority of these “unaware” Americans, we could get them into care. Also accorsing to the CDC, once in treatment, likely transmission of the virus is reduced by 96%. This then drives down infection rates nationwide. It’s a no-brainer!

The CDC recommended in 2006 that HIV screening be part of the standard battery of screenings for all Americans. However, lack of widespread insurance coverage for the test makes it cost-prohibitive and is the key factor in keeping it from becoming the routine test it should be. Passage of the Waters bill should help make the CDC’s recommendation a reality.

The first key to ending the spread of HIV is knowledge of one’s status. That can only happen with testing. Mandatory coverage for routine screening will eliminate one barrier to ending HIV. This bill is past due!

Thanks for reading!

Marc Montminy
Director of Communications and Public Relations

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