June 28, 2012
Los Angeles, Calif. -- The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. "The Black AIDS Institute salutes the Court for upholding the Affordable Care Act," said Phill Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute. "The Affordable Care Act helps to substantially reduce the number of Americans without health insurance -- an important part of the broader effort to provide adequate health care to people with HIV/AIDS and ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States."
The Supreme Court's validation of the Affordable Care Act dramatically strengthens hopes for ending the AIDS pandemic. Although antiretroviral therapy has been shown to reduce the odds of HIV transmission by 96 percent, our country has yet to capitalize on this breakthrough due to gaps in health care access. Too few people living with HIV receive an early diagnosis, too few who test HIV positive are linked to care, too few receive antiretroviral medicines and other critical health services, and too few receive the support they need to remain fully engaged in care. By extending health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, the ACA represents arguably the most important single reform in the history of the AIDS epidemic to link Americans to the HIV services they need and deserve.
People living with HIV have already seen how important the Affordable Care Act is. The elimination of lifetime caps; protection against discrimination because of a pre-existing condition; the ability to stay on a parent's health insurance until age 26, which is crucial given the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases among young people; and the creation of high-risk insurance pools expand access to primary care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.
"We know that people with health insurance are more likely to visit a primary care physician -- allowing them to receive information about safe sexual practices, obtain tests to determine their HIV/AIDS status, and to obtain information about treatment for HIV/AIDS," says Wilson.
The decision is particularly important for Black Americans with HIV. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in six Americans of all races lacks health insurance, but for Black Americans that number is one in five. Each year, 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV. Nearly half of those people infected are Black.
We now have the ability to turn the tide together and bring an end to the AIDS epidemic -- in our lifetime. With the Affordable Care Act, the medical treatments that have already been developed -- as well as treatments in the pipeline -- will become available to millions of Americans faster.
As we look to the election cycle, we also need to aggressively ask all of the candidates -- from top of the ticket to those running for local offices -- what commitments they will make to ensure both a healthy America and that people living with HIV can access the healthcare that we need and deserve.