When President Obama revealed the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in July of 2010, he stated “The question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it. Whether we will fulfill those obligations; whether we marshal our resources and our political will to confront a tragedy that is preventable,”
He was right. We do know what to do. It has been proven time and time again that access to ongoing HIV care not only keeps HIV positive individuals healthy, but also reduces the risk of transmission to others. Access to consistent health care is critical in our pursuit of an HIV free generation.
That is why the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act today is such a victory for all of us with this shared vision. It promises affordable care to millions, care that was previously unavailable because of pre-existing conditions like HIV, unrealistic because of absurd costs, or unreliable because of annual care caps as well as lifetime coverage limits. It promises us a realistic opportunity to stop HIV/AIDS in its track by connecting people to care and providing them the access that they need and deserve.
Medical cost and health insurance has traditionally been an intimidating barrier between those that are HIV positive and the advances in medical technology that have transformed HIV/AIDS from what used to be a near death sentence into a long-term chronic manageable disease that can be treated with access to optimal medical care and treatment, allowing individuals to live long, empowered, and productive lives.
Today’s decision also highlights the importance of the continued funding of the Ryan White CARE Act as we transition into health care reform. The Ryan White Act has shouldered much of the burden that the health care system refused to, and Ryan White funded programs will continue to do so moving forward. Our politicians and policy makers must recognize the ongoing and particular importance of Ryan White funding during this pivotal time.
Though today’s ruling was a significant victory, we must continue to educate people affected by HIV about how the Affordable Care Act will affect their access to quality life-saving HIV treatment, care, and prevention. As citizens we must be accurately informed about what this law means for us, as well as our community. Ohio AIDS Coalition, a division of AIDS Resource Center Ohio, remains committed to educating and informing our communities as the implications of the ruling unfold. It is still unclear as to how Medicaid expansion will affect state programs and people living with HIV/AIDS, so OAC’s upcoming voter education brief will highlight many of these implications.
It is also important that we CELEBRATE our victories, today’s ruling being one of them, for us as well as for those that should have had this care long ago. It signifies another stride forward in our communities and as a nation towards an HIV free future.