Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We need help with that HIV Strategy, Mr. President

The Obama administration announced today that is aims to cut the annual number of new HIV infections in the United States by 25 percent over the next five years. Federal officials are also seeking to combat a growing sense of complacency about the disease, partly by reducing the percentage of infected Americans who are unaware of their status. CNN (7/13/10)
Mr. President, I wish you the best of luck with that strategy in the South, where our public health departments have made getting an HIV test prohibitively expensive.
Last week, I talked to a woman who was charged $123.00 just for a chlamydia and gonorrhea test at our Floyd County Health Department. She wanted to know her HIV status, she wanted to be tested for HIV and syphilis, but she was informed that it would cost her an additional $18.00 per test to find out. I’m glad she kept looking for affordable health care and made it to our clinic, but it saddens me to know that most Romans who are at risk for HIV and STD’s are not so motivated to get tested.

• an estimated 56,000 Americans still contract HIV each year
• Roughly 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV
• Approximately 1 in 5 infected Americans is unaware of his or her status
• More than 18,000 people with AIDS die each year in the U.S
• More than 576,000 people with AIDS have died in the U.S. since the epidemic began
• An estimated 2 million people died from AIDS in 2008
• More than 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide

In the State of Georgia, one can usually get assistance AFTER an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, but STD testing is difficult to find and unaffordable. Public education to give our teenagers the tools to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STD's is almost non-existent. Medicaid assistance is available the day a woman finds out she has an unplanned pregnancy, but it is hard to find the assistance or up-to-date medical care to prevent pregnancy. Similarly, a woman with possible cancers can't get care until she PROVES to the state that she HAS cancer (often a financial impossibility) thus cancer care is delayed and disease is more advanced and more costly.

Mr. President, in order to combat the growing sense of complacency about HIV/AIDS in the public, we must change public health administrative policies. You said on the campaign trail that we must hold our leaders accountable, please help us do that.

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