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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
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CDC's Alarming Underestimation of HIV/AIDS Infections Demands Swift Passage of AB 1894

California Poised to Lead the Nation in Setting Medical Standard in HIV/AIDS Prevention

August 7, 2008

Sacramento, CA -- Today, California's leading HIV/AIDS and health care experts called on the Governor and Legislature to pass AB 1894 in light of the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, which found that the United States has been underestimating HIV infections by more than 40 percent (per year) for the past decade.

Additionally, the new incidence data confirms the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS is having on minority communities with the infection rate among African-Americans seven times and Hispanic-Americans three times greater than whites.

Experts believe that AB 1894 -- which requires private insurers to cover routine HIV screening -- is precisely the sort of response needed to the CDC's alarming report and the critical next step in making routine HIV testing the standard of medical practice. Combined with the almost unanimous passage of last year's AB 682 (which simplified patient consent for HIV-testing in California), the state is poised to lead the nation in setting a national medical standard for HIV/AIDS care and prevention.

Richard Frankenstein, MD, President, California Medical Association:
"With treatments available today, HIV is a manageable chronic condition, but unfortunately it is estimated that 40,000 Californians are HIV positive and don't know it. It is critical that doctors and other health care providers have as many tools as possible to help all Californians know their status, access treatment if needed, and reduce risk of transmission. AB 1894, which will require routine screening to be covered by private insurance, is an essential step to make HIV testing part of everyone's routine health care."

Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation:
"The urgency of universal access to routine screening is underscored by the disastrous news released by the CDC on the much larger numbers of infections in the United States since the 1990s. CDC's new numbers will mean that the number of people who do not know they are HIV positive is much larger as well. Insurers have a responsibility to employers and the insured to assist in finding the large numbers of people who are positive and don't know it. An HIV test costs $20. Lifelong infection costs $600,000. That's an excellent return on investment in human and business terms. We simply cannot afford to be complacent. We strongly urge the Governor to support this legislation."

Dana Van Gorder, Executive Director, Project Inform:
"We know that when people learn they are HIV positive, they are much less likely to engage in behaviors that will cause further transmissions. We also know that people who engage in effective treatment after learning they are HIV positive are less likely to transmit HIV. AB 1894 should be passed to increase early testing to help in order to prevent HIV/AIDS."

Additional background: AB 1894 (authored by Assembly Member Paul Krekorian) would require all group and individual health insurance plans to pay for an HIV test regardless of whether the testing is related to a primary diagnosis or the patient is showing symptoms. Consider:

  • The CDC recommends that everyone in the United States aged 13 to 64 -- regardless of perceived risk -- be regularly tested for HIV to help stop the spread of this disease. The CDC estimates that one-quarter of HIV-infected people are unaware of their HIV infection and that these persons account for more than half of all new infections. In addition, CDC recommends that sexually active gay and bisexual men be tested for HIV at least once a year.
  • The California Office of AIDS estimates that at least 40,000 Californians are HIV positive and don't know it.
  • A 2007 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis showed a direct correlation between the amount of funds spent on prevention and HIV incidence.

Click here to view the CDC study.

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This article was provided by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
See Also
AIDS 2008 Newsroom

Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.