Press Room

November 03, 2005

Category: HIV & AIDS

Senate Passes Common-Sense HIV Treatment Bill

'No American should have to be diagnosed with AIDS before they get access to AIDS-preventing drugs,' said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate passed legislation today that will save lives as well as save the federal Medicaid program millions of dollars in long-term care costs by allowing states to provide Medicaid coverage to low-income, HIV-positive Americans. The bill, which creates "demonstration projects" under Medicaid, is similar to the Early Treatment for HIV Act and was introduced by Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., as an amendment to the budget reconciliation package. It passed the full Senate by a voice vote.

"No American should have to be diagnosed with AIDS before they get access to AIDS-preventing drugs," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Countless Americans' lives can be improved if this common-sense legislation becomes law."

Currently a person with asymptomatic HIV infection is not eligible for Medicaid until he or she has progressed to full-blown AIDS. Without Medicaid coverage, many low-income Americans are left without the critical care and medication needed to help slow the progression of the HIV. Only after developing AIDS does Medicaid coverage become available - significantly impacting a person's quality of life and increasing the long-term cost of care and treatment.

A recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that ETHA will delay disease progression, will increase 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.
ᄡIn a 10-year time period, savings could reduce Medicaid treatment costs by 70 percent, accounting for close to $1.5 billion in savings.

"Senators Gordon Smith and Hillary Clinton have shown tremendous leadership in their efforts to pass this important bill," added Solmonese.

"We'll continue to work alongside our allies to ensure that every American has access to HIV/AIDS prevention tools as well as health care that would delay the onset of AIDS and treat the disease."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.