Early Treatment for HIV Act

S. 833, H.R. 1616

Log Cabin’s friends, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY) introduced ETHA along with 42 co-sponsors from both parties. ETHA would provide states the option of amending their Medicaid eligibility to extend coverage to uninsured, low-income persons with HIV, before they progress to full blown AIDS. Present Medicaid rules, which were established before combination HIV therapies where available, only cover individuals once they have progressed to an AIDS diagnosis. When therapies are started early in the course of infection, people can live full, productive lives and HIV disease is more likely to be a chronic condition. ETHA is modeled on the successful Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment and Prevention Act of 2000, which allows states to provide early access to Medicaid for women with breast and cervical cancer.

It is absurd, both medically and ethically, that people must wait until they progress to full blown AIDS before they can access Medicaid. Passage of ETHA would bring the U.S. Medicaid system in line with the treatment guidelines put forth by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and leading HIV medical organizations such as the International AIDS Society – USA. Early treatment of HIV/AIDS is not only more medically appropriate by offering access to life-saving medications and treatment earlier in the course of the disease, it is also cost-effective. A study prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that if ETHA was enacted, over 10 years, the death rate for persons living with HIV on Medicaid would be reduced by 50 percent, there would be 35,000 more individuals with CD4 levels above 500 under ETHA versus the existing Medicaid system, and the changes would result in savings of $31.7 million.

Log Cabin thanks our allies in the United States House of Representatives for championing early treatment and care for people living with HIV disease and fully supports the passage of this law.