November 30, 2011
These are three headlines that ran on more than 1,800 news websites across the globe that seem to be blaming people with HIV for being "out of control:"
Few in US with HIV have virus under control
HIV Out Of Control In US Patients
Despite availability of drug treatments, few in U.S. with HIV have infection under control
These headlines were ostensibly written to explain a new CDC study showing less than half of all people with HIV in the US have access to treatment. Not only that, but a meager 28 percent have viral load suppression, a key element to staying healthy and preventing the spread of HIV to others.
Why is the media blaming people with HIV for not being in better health with misleading headlines? Maybe in order to get more hits on their websites and sell more papers. A little reporting would have easily revealed some of the reasons why more people with HIV are not in treatment or don't have better health outcomes, for example, the economic crisis that's causing states to cut or drastically reduce eligibility for ADAP.
The state of Ohio was sued and forced to scrap a plan to reduce eligibility, and waiting lists for ADAP nearly reached 10,000 at one point in 2011. Right now they are still at 6,500. But it's not only ADAP.
The crisis in healthcare accessibility in the US means that people miss opportunities to be tested and may not be able to afford private insurance if they do not qualify for Medicaid. Even with healthcare, many people with HIV report they were dissuaded from getting tested by medical providers who decided they weren't "the type" to contract HIV.
Here in NYC we are facing major budget cuts in homeless services, housing, testing and prevention. These all prevent people with HIV from staying healthy and make many more people vulnerable to infection.
So while the media correctly reported that many people with HIV suffer from ill health, the fault is not those with HIV. By focusing media scrutiny on government officials, the public would be better informed about who's really "out of control."
Hats off to reporter Betsy McKay at the Wall Street Journal for the most accurate headline, which read: "Most With HIV In US Don't Get Necessary Care."
Join us at Zuccotti Park tomorrow, World AIDS Day, to demand a Financial Transaction Tax and New York State Millionaires Tax to fund universal access to AIDS treatment and critical support services for people living with AIDS, including housing.
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