Bill Will Help Increase HIV Testing and Bring More People into Care & Treatment
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2012/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The AIDS Institute applauds Rep. Maxine Waters' (D-CA) for introducing the "Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act of 2012" (HR 4470), a bill that would require all individual, group, and federal employee health insurance plans to cover routine opt-out HIV testing.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands coverage to certain preventive services, routine HIV screening is not one of them for all individuals at this time. Coverage by insurance plans is only required for those who are deemed to be at risk for HIV, pregnant women, and sexually active women. Rep. Waters' bill, which has been updated from a version she introduced prior to the passage of ACA, would help address the coverage gaps.
Today, one out of every five people with HIV in the U.S. is not aware they are HIV positive. This translates into 250,000 people. The only way for people to learn they are HIV positive and to be linked to lifesaving care and treatment, is through HIV testing.
In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its HIV testing guidelines to recommend voluntary routine opt-out HIV testing for all persons 13-64 years old in healthcare settings. One of the obstacles in implementing the guidelines has been a lack of willing healthcare payers. Currently, some plans do cover routine HIV testing, while others do not. The Waters' bill addresses this by requiring insurance plans to cover routine HIV testing.
The benefits of HIV testing are many and increased testing is essential to both the individual and public health. First, routine testing can lead to early diagnosis, which enables individuals to best take advantage of the breakthrough medications now available. Second, once diagnosed through HIV testing, individuals are more likely to engage in behaviors that reduce the chance of transmission. This is important as over half of new HIV infections are the result of someone who does not know they are HIV positive. Lastly, there is now scientific evidence that treatment is prevention. If someone is tested and linked to care and treatment, and virally suppressed due to that treatment, their ability to transmit the virus is reduced by up to 96 percent.
Original co-sponsors of the bill include Congresswomen Barbara Lee, Donna Christensen and Madeleine Bordallo.
"Rep. Waters' bill will go a long way toward helping identify the over 250,000 people in the United States who are infected with HIV, but unaware of their status," commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director for The AIDS Institute. "We applaud the Congresswoman and her colleagues for introducing this critical piece of legislation and urge the House of Representatives to act on it as quickly as possible."