July 10, 2012
Alameda County is California's first to let low-income people with HIV qualify for Medicaid (known in the state as Medi-Cal) before they progress to AIDS. The state is leading the nation in the reform of the publicly funded health care program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a transition that will not be completed until 2014, said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).
"We have a long way to go," Lee said Monday during a visit to Cal-Pep, an Oakland-based HIV/AIDS advocacy organization.
ACA will expand coverage for uninsured HIV patients without cutting into the Ryan White Care Act program -- the last resort for low-income HIV/AIDS patients lacking adequate insurance. Alameda County is the launching ground for the initiative in California.
According to Supervisor Keith Carson, Alameda's annual rate of new HIV infections has not declined in two decades. The county has 7,500 HIV/AIDS cases "that we know of," he said. "The number might be higher."
The rate of new infections among Alameda's African-American residents is two to three times that of other groups. County data show AIDS is now the leading cause of death among black women ages 20-40.
Lee said California's reforms represent progress toward the goal of "an AIDS-free generation." Cal-Pep Deputy Director Carla Dillard Smith agreed: "This is a new era."