COVID19 is having an unprecedented impact on the lives of billions of people. But a robust and effective COVID19 response must not be a vehicle for denying access to essential health care services.
NHeLP is fighting to protect access to the range of critical services that people — especially low-income and historically vulnerable communities — need in order to live their lives. Yes, even in a pandemic. Especially in a pandemic.
People living with HIV/AIDS and others with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition to self-isolating and other methods to avoid exposure, people with HIV can take additional steps to protect and care for themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people with HIV/AIDS maintain at least a 30-day supply—and ideally a 90-day supply—of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other medications, and try changing to mail order delivery of medications. Unfortunately some Medicaid programs, private health plans, and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) impose refill limits. Interruptions in HIV treatment can lead to drug resistance, while some people living with HIV never get back on antiretroviral therapy.
The CDC estimates that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., yet over one-third of them are not in treatment at all; and only half have responded to ARV treatment to effectively suppress the amount of HIV virus in their bodies. The upshot is that too many people with HIV have already slipped through the cracks of the health care safety net, such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, Moreover, the fourteen states that have refused to expand Medicaid have the highest HIV infection rates in the country, according to the CDC. As the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms health care systems in cities, counties, and states across the country, without improvements to key programs the prognosis for people with HIV and AIDS worsens.
We need our leaders to protect and expand health care access. This is the time to work together and do all we can to ensure all people are able to get the care that they need.