For 12 years, March 10 has been observed as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). The CDC estimates that over 280,000 women are living with HIV and of those women, 11% don’t know they are infected. The theme for NWGHAAD is: The Best Defense is a Good Offense. This theme speaks volumes because the first line of defense is educating oneself about the disease and knowing your status. One of the biggest reasons women don’t get tested is because they are afraid of the outcome. But that shouldn’t be the case, nor should the ability to get tested. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides coverage of certain preventive services, including HIV testing for those ages 15-65.
HIV and Health Insurance:
As reported by Reuters in “Exhibit A for Republican Obamacare Repeal Challenge: People with HIV,” the ACA has provided many people living with HIV or AIDS with necessary health care at an affordable cost, especially through Medicaid expansion. Before the ACA, low-income patients living with HIV couldn’t get Medicaid coverage in most states until they became disabled and sick. About 24 percent of people with HIV did not have any coverage. Per the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid currently covers more than 40 percent of HIV patients. HIV experts believe repealing the ACA could have detrimental effects on those infected with these diseases by disrupting care and could potentially lead to increased transmissions.
A Vox article explains that the newly unveiled Republican bill to repeal the ACA will significantly impact people with HIV. The proposed health bill would eliminate the ACA’s individual mandate—which requires everyone to buy insurance and helps ensure a risk pool with a good mix of young, healthy, old, and sick people—and would replace it with a continuous coverage requirement. Continuous coverage protects patients with preexisting conditions only if they are able to keep their health insurance continuously, which could be difficult for people with chronic conditions such as HIV. Many people with these conditions may have to cease employment to receive treatment, which in turn could result in paying more for health insurance. The ACA provided income-based subsidies to address these situations, helping people pay for their insurance. Under the proposed Republican bill, people living with HIV will have a difficult time affording plans that will actually cover their necessary care and treatment.
The Republican replacement bill is a threat to the ACA that could be harmful to those living with HIV. With the ACA under attack, it’s important for us to observe days such as NWGHAAD to bring attention to and raise awareness about the issues that are affecting women, especially HIV/AIDs. NWGHAAD raises awareness of the importance of empowering women to take control of their own body and get tested. Women with HIV who have received improved care under the ACA can take action to oppose its repeal by sharing how the ACA has impacted their lives for the better. You can share your story with Raising Women’s Voices, a national initiative working to ensure women are engaged and represented in health care laws.