July 31, 2012
Washington, D.C. -- August 1st marks a significant step in expanding access to free HIV screening for many women. Most private insurance plans will be required to cover annual HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, free HIV screening and counseling will be included as one of the eight preventative services that private insurance policies must cover, without cost-sharing.
"The Affordable Care Act will bolster women's access to healthcare and preventative services," commented Marylin Merida, President of The AIDS Institute. "We are pleased the Secretary singled out HIV testing as one of the additional preventive services private insurance plans must cover for women, many of whom often do not realize they are at risk for HIV," added Merida.
Of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, nearly one quarter are women. Among all people living with HIV in the US, almost 20 percent do not know they are infected. Testing is the only way to learn of one's HIV status.
Knowing your HIV status is beneficial to both the individual and public health. Identifying HIV positive people early through testing enables them to take advantage of medications and leads to better health outcomes. Once diagnosed, individuals are more likely to engage in behaviors that reduce the chance of transmission. Additionally, there is now scientific evidence that treatment is prevention.
"Increasing access to testing and linking people to care and treatment is critical in our fight to end the AIDS epidemic. Expanded testing for women brings us one step closer towards that goal," commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. He concluded, "Having coverage for HIV testing is one essential component. Now, we must educate women and their providers that this coverage exists so that all women with private insurance will take advantage of this opportunity and learn their HIV status."
The coverage of women's preventive services applies to all non-grandfathered insurance plans and takes effect in the first new plan year beginning on or after August 1, 2012.