National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today, February 7, 2013, we the partner organizations of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) celebrate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.   We are a collective of organizations with storied histories of addressing civil and human rights issues and recognize the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a critical issue of our time.

On this day we acknowledge the significant steps the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is taking in righting many of the health care injustices that have led to the high rates of HIV/AIDS in our communities, and we have been moved to voice our support on this day of awareness.

Historically, people living with HIV and AIDS have had a difficult time obtaining private health insurance and have been particularly vulnerable to insurance industry abuses. Consistent with the goals of President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the Affordable Care Act makes considerable strides in addressing these concerns and advancing equality for people living with HIV and AIDS. The implementation of the ACA can and will begin to redress health disparities and advance health equity for people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS by significantly expanding access to health insurance coverage and much needed prevention, care and treatment services that are affordable and accessible.  But, more importantly, the provisions of the ACA provide unprecedented opportunities for African Americans to control the quality of their health and healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the fight against HIV/AIDS in our history.

Key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that have specific relevance on this day include:

Expanding coverage and access to care

  • The ACA will provide quality, affordable, accessible comprehensive health coverage (comparable to employer health plans) for prescription drugs, preventive services, chronic disease management, mental health and substance use disorder services to millions of uninsured and under insured Americans allowing those living with HIV and AIDS to live full, productive lives.
  • With the passage of the ACA, insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as HIV or AIDS.  Additionally, insurers will no longer be able to impose lifetime spending caps on insurance benefits – a strategy that limits access to essential health benefits for people living with HIV/AIDS or other disabling conditions.
  • The ACA will also increase the amount of savings individuals receive for their prescription drug benefits.  Overtime, the so-called “donut hole” under the Medicare Part D prescription benefit will close allowing Medicare enrollees with HIV or AIDS to better afford their medications.

 Investing in Prevention & Wellness

  • We believe that expanding access to HIV screening and counseling is foundational to prevention and care and public health.   The new law requires insurance plans to offer coverage without cost-sharing for HIV screening tests for at-risk individuals, enabling more people to get access to life saving treatment more quickly. Early detection and early treatment are necessary first steps in empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health and reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Diversity and Cultural Competency

  • The ACA extends civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national  origin, gender, disability or age by any health program or activity receiving federal financial assistance opening a door to more equitable treatment of HIV positive individuals.
  • The ACA will also expand initiatives to strengthen cultural competency training for health care providers, and ensure fair and equitable treatment by health care institutions through the provision of health related information in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner- a strategy that we know will improve healthcare for African Americans.

African Americans experience new HIV infections at seven times the rate of whites, and nearly half of people with HIV/AIDS are African Americans. These shocking numbers point to structural inequalities that must be addressed in order to end the epidemic, and we know that the ACA will play a major role in this.

With the above provisions and others, for the first time, we not only have the opportunity to see an end to HIV/AIDS in this country, but also the first real opportunity to address the HIV-related health disparities that exist for African Americans. We, the undersigned partners of AAALI, are proud to support the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as a step in the ongoing quest for health and social justice, and a move toward an AIDS-free generation that includes African Americans.

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