Bill would permit state Medicaid programs to provide HIV treatment to individuals before they develop AIDS.
WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, hailed the re-introduction of the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA) today in the U.S. House. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Eliot Engel, Nancy Pelosi and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, would amend the Social Security Act to allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to low-income, HIV-positive people before they develop AIDS. The legislation currently has 44 co-sponsors. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate soon.
"Now that we have a President who is willing to sign, we urge Congress to pass this common-sense legislation that would save countless lives and taxpayer dollars," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "With early treatment, we'll be improving the quality of life for HIV-positive Americans we'll be reducing the number of infections by lowering viral loads and we'll be saving money by treating the infection before it worsens."
The re-introduction of ETHA comes in the same week the Washington Post reported at least 3 percent of residents in the District of Columbia have HIV or AIDS, elevating the disease to a "severe" epidemic.
Currently a person with asymptomatic HIV infection is not eligible for Medicaid until he or she has progressed to 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.
Passage of the bill into law would also create significant savings for taxpayers. Because early treatment for HIV-positive individuals would delay both the need for more expensive forms of treatment and the time at which individuals would become medically disabled, enacting ETHA could reduce demands on the SSI, Social Security Disability Insurance Savings and Medicaid and Medicare programs.
In November of 2005, the Senate unanimously passed an ETHA demonstration grant as an amendment offered by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). However, the provision was stripped out in conference committee. To learn more on The Early Treatment for HIV Act, visit www.hrc.org/etha.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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