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Schmid: Right Choices Can Turn the Tide on AIDS

The Ryan White Program and its AIDS Drug Assistance Program has experienced unprecedented client growth. This resulted in long wait lists for medications until the Obama administration provided emergency funding. The president has proposed a $100 million increase in ADAP next year, $65 million of that increase was approved earlier this year by the Senate. However, it remains to be seen what the House will do. With mandatory cuts of more than 8 percent on the horizon for nondefense discretionary programs, which include HIV treatment and prevention programs, the fight against this epidemic is in jeopardy.

But there is hope. As health care reform is implemented, many of the barriers that have prevented people with HIV from accessing private insurance will disappear. HIV-positive people will qualify to receive private insurance through the exchanges, and if they are very poor they can access Medicaid.

Yet there are some in Congress who want to repeal the 2010 law. These same Members are trying to deny funding to implement the law. It is time to stop the political bickering and move to full implementation — in Washington and throughout the states.

Perhaps the most positive development for people with HIV contained in the law is the Medicaid expansion. More than a dozen governors have already announced they will deny this health coverage to their low-income citizens. If this truly is the case, these governors will be turning their backs on their most vulnerable constituents and putting politics over policy.

Because there still is no cure or vaccine for HIV, the only way to end the epidemic is through prevention and treatment. While the ultimate responsibility rests with the individual, federal and state policies will play a large role in determining whether we will turn the tide together on AIDS, or whether this preventable disease will continue to plague our nation.

Carl Schmid is deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute.

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