Press Room

February 08, 2005

Category: HIV & AIDS

HRC Lauds Early Treatment for HIV Act Reintroduction

'Low-income Americans should not have to be diagnosed with AIDS before they get the drugs that can delay AIDS in the first place,' said HRC's David Smith.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign lauded today's reintroduction in the Senate of the Early Treatment for HIV Act, a measure that would allow states to extend their Medicaid funds to low-income people living with HIV.

"Low-income Americans should not have to be diagnosed with AIDS before they get the drugs that can delay AIDS in the first place," said David M. Smith, HRC's vice president of policy and strategy. "This bill would solve that life-threatening problem."

ETHA is modeled after the highly successful and bipartisan Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000, which similarly provided states with the option to provide care and treatment to women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer through publicly funded screenings.

The Treatment Access Expansion Project retained PricewaterhouseCoopers to assess the effects of early health care access under ETHA.

The study found that ETHA delays disease progression, increases life expectancy and is cost effective. The study's findings include:

ᄡOver 10 years, ETHA would reduce the death rate for persons with HIV who would qualify for Medicaid by 50 percent.

ᄡOver 10 years, disease progression would be significantly slowed and health outcomes improved.

ᄡIf a 10-year time period is considered for each ETHA participant, including those who enter the program in later years, Medicaid offsets alone reduce gross Medicaid costs by 70 percent, accounting for $1,472.6 million in unrecognized savings.

Access to HIV therapies reduces the amount of HIV virus present in a person's bloodstream, a key factor in curbing infectiousness and reducing the ability to transmit HIV. A recent study published in the magazine AIDS in 2004 found that HIV therapies reduce infectiousness by 60 percent. The study confirmed that early access to HIV therapies as provided under ETHA is an important HIV prevention tool.

"We laud Senators Gordon Smith and Hillary Clinton for leading efforts to pass this important bill," added Smith. "We'll continue to work alongside our allies in ensuring that every American has access to HIV/AIDS prevention tools as well as health care that would help delay the onset of AIDS and adequately cover treatment for AIDS."