Recent votes by the U.S. House of Representatives that unsuccessfully sought to cut domestic HIV programs offer a clear signal that even a wide majority of the House reject domestic HIV funding cuts. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the Labor, HHS appropriation bill that would have eliminated the HHS Minority HIV/AIDS Fund by a vote of 109 to 324. On that vote, more Republicans (110) voted against the amendment than for it. An amendment to cut AIDS research at the NIH was made in order by leadership but ultimately was never offered.
From the office of Massachusetts Senate President Karen E. Spilka: Senate passes bill expanding access to HIV prevention drug
“For the first time since PrEP became available eleven years ago, over a third of the people CDC believes could benefit from being on PrEP are being prescribed it. However, there are stark and widening racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in PrEP use in Massachusetts and nationwide,” said Kevin Herwig, Health Policy Manager at HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute. “Allowing pharmacists to prescribe PrEP, as well as to link people with PrEP clinical services and HIV testing, will help remove barriers to getting HIV preventive medication for people and communities who have not yet been able to benefit from the promise of PrEP. We thank the Senate, Senate President Spilka, Senator Cyr, and others for supporting this important legislation.”
“While the data demonstrate progress in PrEP usage, which will translate into fewer new HIV transmissions, the low usage of PrEP among the communities most impacted by HIV points to the need for increased and targeted federal resources,” said Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute. “Unfortunately, House Republicans have proposed to cut $220 million from CDC’s HIV prevention program and completely eliminate HRSA’s $157 million PrEP program for community health centers. If these cuts were to be realized, instead of reporting on progress, the nation will be experiencing increased new HIV transmissions, which in the long run will cost us more.”
Today, the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute filed another complaint against an insurer for violating the patient protections included in the Affordable Care Act. This time, the group alleges that Community Health Choice Texas, based in Houston, offers substandard HIV drug coverage by not covering recommended drugs for HIV treatment, including single tablet regimens, and is discriminating against people with HIV by placing most of the drugs that it does cover on the highest and most costly tier.
Months after the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute and the North Carolina AIDS Action Network filed discrimination complaints against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina for placing almost all HIV drugs on the highest drug tiers, the insurer has released a new mid-year drug formulary that leaves not a single HIV drug on the highest and most costly drug tiers. Instead of 48 HIV drugs, including many generics, on Tiers 5 and 6, there are now none. As a result, depending on the plan, patients will be paying more reasonable and affordable costs.