Republican healthcare plans ‘will leave America vulnerable’ to HIV epidemic

HIV advocacy groups have issued dire warnings about Republican plans to repeal Obamacare – which are expected to deprive thousands of HIV-positive Americans of health coverage.

The GOP is currently attempting to pass the so-called American Health Care Act, which would remove many of the healthcare protections put in place by President Barack Obama.

After the publication of the draft  bill, a string of HIV and LGBT groups have warned that plans to slash Medicaid will disproportionately impact low-income people living with HIV – who face losing their health insurance coverage altogether.

People with pre-existing conditions like HIV, who benefited the most from Obamacare, are expected to be among the worst off by the changes.

The Human Rights Campaign explains that current healthcare system “ensures that people living with HIV have access to the lifesaving treatments”, warning that the drastic changes to Medicaid “will likely strip these people, and other vulnerable populations, of essential healthcare coverage”.

Just last month a study confirmed that thousands of people living with HIV were able to get coverage for the first time under Obamacare.

Ensuring people with HIV have access to prompt medical treatment is extremely cost effective in the long-term, as effective treatment reduces the risk of transmission to near zero and prevents further outbreaks.

The HIV Medicine Association said of the GOP plans: “These proposals will not only harm individuals with HIV but will compromise our nation’s public health by leaving fewer with access to the antiretroviral treatment that keeps patients healthy and reduces their risk of transmitting HIV to near zero. We strongly urge the committees to reconsider the bill.”

AIDS United agreed: “The American Health Care Act would, if passed, strongly affect and potentially worsen treatment and care for people living with HIV and the provision of HIV prevention services for people at risk for infection.”

“This Act will directly undermine the goals of providing treatment and care for people living with HIV as well as the goal of ending the epidemic.”

The law would also slash federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which in many rural areas is one of the only providers of HIV testing and sexual health services, as well as gender-related care for trans people.

The ACA’s public health and prevention fund, established to expand investments in the nation’s public health infrastructure, would also be repealed.

HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said: “We are deeply concerned about the negative impact this proposal would have on communities already facing discrimination and healthcare disparities, including the LGBTQ community.

“The announced legislation undermines core provisions of the Affordable Care Act and cuts off tens of millions of Americans from life-saving healthcare coverage.

“This flawed proposal, drafted behind closed door without public input, turns a blind eye to the essential health benefits that millions of Americans have come to rely upon.”

When it comes to disastrous policies on HIV, Vice President Mike Pence has plenty of prior experience.

As Governor of Indiana, Pence stood in the way of expanding HIV services and preventative measures like needle exchanges – until he was forced to declare a public health emergency due to a sharp rise in transmissions.

Pence famously once suggested that HIV prevention funding be drained in order to fund state-sponsored ‘gay cure’ therapy.

On a 2000 Congressional campaign website, Pence wrote: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”