This HIV Testing Day, HIV Clinics Face Funding Shortfall for Lifesaving Patient Care
June 18, 2010
Arlington, Va. -- Nearly one in four peoplean estimated 21 percentliving with HIV nationwide are not aware of their HIV status, with even higher rates in some parts of the country. They account for half of all new infections and don't get tested until they become sick. This HIV Testing Day, June 27, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and the Ryan White Medical Providers Coalition (RWMPC) urge everyone to get tested for HIV. The earlier people are diagnosed and connected to medical care, the better their long-term health outcomes are, and the more cost effective their treatment is.
Sadly, this lifesaving care is threatened by a dangerous gap in funding for clinics that provide care and the growing number of low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients who need it. Testing is key to identifying the more than 50,000 new cases of HIV infection that occur in the U.S. each year, adding new demands on an already strained HIV care system. Federal funding, meanwhile, has stayed flat or even decreased for some clinics funded through Part C of the Ryan White program, designed to provide a safety net for people with HIV/AIDS who have no other source of health coverage.
Funding for this program has grown just 9 percent since 2001, while the number of patients who rely on clinics funded through Part C has increased 59 percent during the same time period.
"HIV testing can improve the nation's overall public health by limiting the spread of HIV and connecting those with HIV to the treatment and care they need, but that can only happen if clinics and health providers that deliver this care have adequate resources," said J. Kevin Carmichael, MD, RWMPC co-chair. "Testing and connecting people with HIV medical care is smart and saves both lives and money. Long wait times for care caused by inadequate funding can have a chilling effect on efforts to diagnose patients earlier, when treatment is most effective."
A recent study in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that many HIV-infected people in the U.S. and Canada already start HIV care too late, after their immune systems have been damaged and after the time recommended by current federal HIV treatment guidelines for starting therapy. Another study, from the Part C-funded HIV clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that patients treated at the later stages of HIV disease required 2.6 times more health care dollars than those receiving earlier treatment meeting federal guidelines.
The economic downturn, and the resulting federal and state budget cuts, risk straining the safety net for HIV care even further as more patients without insurance coverage seek care, underscoring the need for Congress to provide adequate funding for Part C clinics.
"HIV/AIDS is a complex but manageable disease, and early diagnosis through testing and appropriate care can make all the difference for our patients," said Michael Saag, MD, FIDSA, HIVMA chair. "Ryan White clinics provide high-quality, cost-effective care using a patient-centered approach that treats the whole person by providing a range of services that HIV/AIDS patients need to stay healthy. But these clinics need adequate resources to get the job done."
For more information about HIV Testing Day, including a searchable list of testing sites across the country, visit www.hivtest.org.
This article was provided by HIV Medicine Association. Visit HIVMA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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