House Democratic Leader Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) today introduced the Early Treatment for HIV Act. The legislation, introduced in both Houses of Congress, would give states the option to expand their Medicaid programs to provide treatment for low-income, HIV-positive individuals who have not yet developed symptoms of AIDS.
"Early treatment for HIV can extend and improve the lives of people with HIV disease," Pelosi said. "But, tragically, many people are going without this powerful and cost effective therapy. This legislation will extend access to the drug therapies and primary care that people with HIV should receive."
"We must take this important step to address the Catch-22 faced by thousands of low-income HIV-positive Americans who don't have health insurance," Gephardt said. "Medicaid should be providing them with the therapies that help keep them healthy and live longer, more productive lives."
"This bill is simple logic," Torricelli said. "It is a real step toward improving the quality of life for thousands of low-income people with HIV. This legislation eliminates a glaring flaw in the Medicaid program by allowing access to vital medical services."
Fifty-nine other members of the House joined Gephardt and Pelosi as original cosponsors of the bill. Earlier this month, the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS wrote the President urging his active support of the Early Treatment for HIV Act.
HIV treatment guidelines issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services recommend the use of antiviral therapy early in the course of HIV infection, before development of symptoms. Yet because Medicaid does not define individuals with early infection as disabled, many low-income individuals are unable to receive HIV-related drugs and health care through the program.
"Powerful new drugs have given people with HIV renewed hope in fighting this disease," Pelosi said. "It is imperative that our government health care programs catch up with the recommendations of government health care experts."
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