July 23, 2013
With so many critical decisions now in the hands of the states, state-level advocacy is vital to maximize the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) benefits for PLWHA. And given that Black people living with HIV are currently most likely to fall through the cracks of our health-care system, Black advocates need to play a pivotal role in state-level advocacy.
Robert Greenwald, director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, and his team at the law school are already working with advocates in key states. "I spend most of my time at the state level working in the South to highlight the importance of expanding Medicaid to low-income individuals and families," he says.
The Black AIDS Institute is working to link Black community leaders in key states to ongoing advocacy efforts on ACA implementation. In 2013 the Institute will collaborate with the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, AIDS United, the Latino Commission on AIDS and state and local health departments to convene a two-day "ACA Boot Camp" for AIDS advocates.
The boot camp will focus on preparing Black Treatment Advocates Networks (BTAN) to link with other health-reform advocates in their local areas and will support BTAN advocates' efforts to persuade decision-makers in their states to fully implement the ACA. By the end of the two-day boot camp, participants will be able to explain the effect of the ACA on their local health-care landscape, develop locally tailored advocacy and education tools, and implement an action plan to improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of local AIDS programming.
The resistance in some states to certain ACA provisions is hardly unprecedented. After the Medicaid program was established in the 1960s, it took 18 years before all states agreed to implement it. Experts anticipate that all states, including those where resistance is currently greatest, will eventually embrace Medicaid expansion because both the economic benefits for states and the public rationale for expansion are simply too compelling to ignore.
However, neither the many thousands of HIV-positive, low-income individuals who urgently need lifesaving care nor the AIDS movement as a whole can afford to wait 18 years to fully implement the ACA. With research breakthroughs offering the real chance to lay a foundation for the eventual end of the epidemic, states need to take action now to seize the potential of the ACA.
Excerpted from the Black AIDS Institute's 2013 State of AIDS Report, "Light at the End of the Tunnel: Ending AIDS in Black America."