On World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama declared that America is on its way to defeating the global pandemic known as the AIDS virus. At an online conference Thursday, the President announced more funding ($50 million more) for HIV/AIDS treatment in the U.S. and a higher target goal for how many Americans will be on treatment by 2013 (6 million people). And while HIV patients and advocates welcome efforts to fight and treat the disease on a large scale, many agree that at the state and local levels, serious problems with treatment programs and the criminalization of HIV-positive individuals often go unaddressed. (more…)
President Obama announced today that $50 million in additional funds will be going toward treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
Obama said during “The Beginning of the End of AIDS,” an online conference organized by ONE International, “a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa”:
Today, I’m announcing some new commitments. We’re committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country. Let’s keep their doors open so they can keep saving lives. And we’re committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Now, the federal government can’t do this alone. So I’m also calling on state governments, pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations, to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.
Florida has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the United States. According to National Alliance of State and territorial AIDS Directors, “as of November 17, 2011, there were 6,595 individuals” (.pdf) on ADAP “waiting lists in 12 states.” More than 3,200 of those people live in Florida.
ADAP provides life saving medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. States have implemented a variety of cost containment measures that include waiting lists since 2010, when ADAPs began facing an ongoing funding crisis.
“With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act,” Obama said today. “And, as I signed that bill, I was so proud to also announce that my Administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America. Because of that step, next year, for the first time in two decades, we will host the International AIDS conference. So we’ve done a lot over the past three years.”
The president added: “We know that treatment is also prevention. And today we’re setting a new target of helping six million people get on treatment by the end of 2013. That’s two million more people than our original goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs November report issued this week indicates that in the U.S. alone “about 1.2 million people are living with HIV” and “about 240,000 don’t know they are infected.”
Vital Signs adds that “each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. Getting an HIV test is the first step to finding out if you have HIV and getting medical care.”
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, approved in 2010, highlights among other measures the need for increasing access to treatment and focusing on HIV prevention programs.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke at the ONE conference panel, saying HIV/AIDS “is a good example of how government can work with other institutions in society and around the world to be a positive difference maker.”
Rubio added Democrats and Republicans agree that “the U.S. was a great country in the 2oth century” and “some of the debate that’s happening now is whether the United States will remain a great country in the 21st century.”
The senator acknowledged that “we need to recognize that there are still thousands of people in the United States on waiting lists to receive medication, certainly in my home state of Florida that is the case.”
Rubio concluded that the “economy will be even tougher if people around the world are dying, can’t enter the workforce and can’t be our business partners in economic trade and development.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., founding co-chair of the first ever congressional HIV/AIDS caucus, highlighted today the need to increase HIV testing at the domestic level, adding, “We need a domestic PEPFAR; that’s what we are working on.”
PEPFAR, the United States President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was created to “help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.”
Photo: President Barack Obama (Flickr/The White House)
The U.S. Department of Justice issued letters to the attorneys general of all 50 states as well as U.S. territories in hopes of ending the exclusion of individuals with HIV and AIDS, covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, from occupational training and state licensing.
The ADA provides federal civil rights protections to persons with disabilities in public accommodations, employment and state and local government services. The DOJ learned that public and private trade schools for barbering, cosmetology, massage therapy, home health care work and other occupations, as well as state licensing agencies, may be illegally denying individuals with HIV/AIDS admission to trade schools or occupational licenses because of their HIV status. Because HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact or by circumstances present in these occupations, according to the DOJ, the status of such individuals is irrelevant.
In the letter, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez asked state officials to review their respective jurisdictions’ admission and licensing criteria for trade schools and licensing agencies to identify the existence of any criteria that unlawfully exclude or discriminate against persons with HIV/AIDS, and to make necessary adjustments to bring those programs into compliance with ADA.
“It is critical that we continue to work o eradicate discriminatory and stigmatizing treatment towards individuals with HIV based on unfounded fears and stereotypes,” Perez said. “The ADA clearly protects individuals with HIV and other disabilities from this kind of exclusion or marginalization.”
The letter follows a December 2010 settlement agreement with Modern Hairstyling Institute Inc., a private cosmetology school in Puerto Rico, for delaying the admission of an HIV-positive person. The agreement requires the school to remove questions about applicants’ HIV/AIDS status and to promptly enroll the aggrieved individual in its program.
DOJ officials have also developed a white paper regarding HIV/AIDS and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy has called for a significant reduction of the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV. It is believed such practices undermines ongoing efforts to encourage all people to learn their HIV status, and to disclose their status to others who can provide understanding and support.
A coalition of over 80 HIV/AIDS service organizations have sent a letter to Congress seeking increased funding for HIV prevention and care programming in the country.
The letter, delivered to top Obama White House officials as well as members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, calls for millions of dollars in increased spending to combat the epidemic in the U.S.
The letter highlights eight areas of federal funding streams, and identifies what the groups say the financial needs in each area are.
Of particular interest is a call for increased funding to Ryan White monies. Those funds assist state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs which help those infected with HIV who do not have insurance access vital medications. It currently serves 529,000 people, but several states have had to furlough applicants to waiting lists. Florida leads the nation with waiting list patients at 3,085 people. Ten states have implemented waiting list, putting 6,001 people in limbo waiting for access to life saving medications.
The Obama administration has pushed a $30 million emergency supplemental spending bill for ADAP programming for the 2010 fiscal year. But the letter calls for additional funding under Ryan White Care Act as follows:
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to support an increase in funding of at least $101.9 million for the Ryan White Program. In doing so, we support that the funding be divided in the following ways: $15 million for Part A, which will go to 52 metropolitan areas in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico ; $10 million for Part B base, which goes to all states; $65 million for ADAP, which goes to all states; $5 million for Part C, which funds 444 clinics in 49 states, DC and Puerto Rico; $2.5 million for Part D, which funds 98 programs in 36 states for Women, Children and Youth; $ 2.6 million for Part F, which funds the AIDS Educations and Training Centers; and $1.8 million for Part F Dental programs. While these numbers do not represent the true need, in most instances, they represent what was proposed by Congress in earlier versions of FY11 spending bills.
The letter also supports an emergency appropriation for $66 million for prevention activities funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
With increased funding, crucial prevention efforts can be enhanced, including the delivery and evaluation of behavioral interventions, structural interventions, surveillance, and other preventative education programs. Community-based organizations and state and local health departments are all facing severe financial challenges. Through budget cuts, hiring freezes, layoffs, and furloughs, health departments across the nation continue to curtail core public health functions, including those that prevent the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. Additional federal resources are absolutely necessary if we are to reverse the increase of new infections, which occur at the rate of one every 9 ½ minutes.
With 56,000 new infections identified annually, prevention measures are key, the groups say. Preventing those 56,000 new infections would result in a lifetime savings in medical care of $20 billion the group says. In Detroit, HIV prevalence rates in over half of the city’s zip codes are three, four and five percent. One zip code has a prevalence rate of six percent, which is on part with Uganda. Those prevention dollars could assist in addressing the crisis in Detroit.
The letter also calls for $40 million more for the Division of Adolescent and School Health. That proposal notes that youth 13-29 account for one-third of new infections nationally. The groups also call for $133 million in funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative and request the program to include HIV prevention messages.
In addition, the groups ask lawmakers to approve $350 million for Housing Opportunities for People With HIV/AIDS. The program assists HIV positive people obtaining and maintaining stable housing. This, studies have shown, has a positive impact on health outcomes for those with HIV and prevents additional infections, lowers medical costs by getting people with HIV to adhere to medication protocols and more.
And finally the letter calls for $1.4 million for the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) in the White House. The money would be used to effectively implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy released by the Obama administration in July.