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organizations come out in favor of House HIV bill

organizations come out in favor of House HIV bill

Several key AIDS organizations have announced their support for the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), which was introduced on the floor of the House Thursday under the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and representatives Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. The bipartisan bill would allow states to extend Medicare coverage to uninsured low-income patients with HIV before the disease progresses to AIDS.

"This law will prolong and dramatically improve the quality of people's lives by increasing access to care and treatment when it is most helpful," said Rebecca Haag, executive director of AIDS Action, in a press release from the organization. "In most states Medicaid now only covers HIV drugs and treatment after a person receives an AIDS diagnosis--when it is much too late in their disease progression--not when treatment and drug therapy can most improve people's health outcomes."

According to the press release, a 2003 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that if ETHA were passed, it would lead to overall savings in state and federal health care programs. With access to antiretroviral therapy, patients living with HIV would experience slower progression of the disease, leading to a 50% decrease in the number of deaths of HIV-positive Medicare users.

"It's just unimaginable today that Medicaid doesn't automatically cover poor people with HIV in our country," said Gene Copello, executive director of the AIDS Institute, in a press release from the organization. "When current Medicaid rules were written, people with HIV quickly progressed to AIDS, but with the advent of antiretroviral drug treatment, people with HIV can remain healthy for years. It makes no sense to wait until people have full-blown AIDS before they can access medical care and drug treatment through Medicaid." (The Advocate)

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