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HIV/AIDS News Digest: April 7, 2011

April 7, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

The Michigan Department of Community Health Urges Local Health Departments to Stop Stigmatizing HIV (From The Michigan Messenger)

According to The Michigan Messenger, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has sent letters to all local state health departments urging them to stop using Client Acknowledgment forms because the forms are legally inaccurate and essentially not required under Michigan state law.

The Client Acknowledgment forms require that all people who are newly diagnosed with HIV sign a paper stating that they understand their legal responsibility under Michigan law to inform sexual partners of their HIV status or they will face possible felony charges. But in February, when The Michigan Messenger's Todd Heywood reported that these forms misinterpret the law and are unfairly being used in HIV criminalization cases, the HIV community erupted.

Perhaps as a result of that article and the response, the MDCH changed its tune.

Amna Osman, director of the Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control, wrote in a letter, "The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) does not endorse or encourage the use of 'Client Acknowledgment Forms.' We do not support or endorse any practice or policy which may contribute to stigmatizing HIV or associated risk behaviors as this may serve as a deterrent to individuals seeking testing to learn their HIV status, or from seeking care, if they know they are HIV-infected."

We Need HIV Advocates at the Table in the Health Care Debate (From The Huffington Post)

Whether you call it "health care reform" or "Obamacare," the health care debate is not over -- it still rages on. In an opinion piece for The Huffington Post, author and activist David Mixner expresses his fears about how the health care debate is going to impact people living with HIV, especially those who are on Medicare.

He also writes about his fear of the new Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a board of presidential appointees who are analyzing Medicare's cost-cutting decisions. Given how many people living with HIV are on Medicare, Mixner is concerned with the outcome.

He writes:

While there are some limits on what the Board can do to cut costs, IPAB does have the power to adjust reimbursement rates for physicians participating in Medicare. In practice, that can only mean cutting payments to doctors.

Such cuts will undoubtedly drive even more doctors out of the program. Already, many physicians are declining to take on new patients covered by Medicare as a result of low payment rates. Some doctors, faced with the prospect of literally losing money on every enrollee they treat, have simply stopped participating in the program at all.

HIV/AIDS patients depend on highly trained, specialized physicians. Each and every patient has a unique combination of retrovirals they depend on to keep them alive. If promising therapies are cut because they are deemed too expensive by IPAB, then we are literally endangering the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. It's imperative that they receive consistent, high-quality management of their disease. If IPAB starts cutting doctor rates and pushing out caregivers, HIV/AIDS patients could lose access to qualified physicians, resulting in a dramatic drop in quality of care and potentially an unnecessarily early death.

Gilead Raises Prices of HIV Drugs, AHF Speaks Out Against Price Hike (From Bloomberg Businessweek)

Gilead Sciences increased the prices of its top-selling HIV treatment drugs: Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC)'s price increased by 5.1 percent, while the prices of Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) and Emtriva (emtricitabine, FTC) increased by 7.9 percent. It was only just two years ago that Atripla's cost went up by12 percent and Truvada and Emtriva's by 13 percent.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) blasted the pharmaceutical company claiming that these hikes are unreasonable, especially since these particular drugs have no new formulations and the increases will harm cash-strapped programs such as Medicare. And given the serious cuts that are going to be made to Medicare, this could negatively impact the HIV community and result in people not having access to life-saving medications.

"Price increases like the ones Gilead announced today -- on top of 2009 and 2010 increases -- are unreasonable, particularly in light of the fact that Atripla, Truvada and Emtriva are older drugs that contain no new formulations," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Such increases do harm to already strained programs such as Medicare and contribute to medical inflation -- which is already ballooning. With only a 2% rise in inflation last year, there simply is no justification for these most recent increases."

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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