07 April 2014

The real cost of HIV/AIDS

By Alice Holbrook
Alice Holbrook writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.
Miami, FL, US, AIDS Watch Indonesia (Apr 5, 2014) - There are currently 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in America, and 19% of these individuals are Latino. While African Americans are the group most impacted by HIV/AIDS, the Latino population is still disproportionately affected.
This group makes up 16% of the total U.S. population but 21% of new HIV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention, 1 in 36 Latino men and 1 in 106 Latino women will eventually receive an HIV diagnosis.
When diagnoses fall disproportionately on one community, so do costs. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS treatments create a very real—and very expensive—financial burden for both individuals and governments, on top of the emotional and physical toll it takes on those affected.
The cost to individuals
Those diagnosed with HIV have a lot to be hopeful about. Thanks to advances in research, individuals who are diagnosed early enough and stay on top of their treatment protocol have an average life expectancy of 24.2 years from the time they enter treatment—much higher than when the infection was first reported.
However, the cost of so many appointments and prescriptions is prohibitive for many.Monthly treatment regimes can range  from $2,000 to $5,000—which, in combination with longer life expectancy, can total more than half a million dollars.
Luckily, there are ways for individuals to defray HIV-related medical bills. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can’t enforce a maximum dollar amount they’ll spend on essential health benefits and can’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions—both huge wins for the HIV/AIDS community.
For those who can’t afford private insurance, there are other programs that can help with AIDS treatment costs, including Medicaid and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
The Cost to the Nation
When a patient qualifies for financial help with HIV/AIDS treatment, the government picks up the bill. For 2014, the president has requested $5.9 billion for Medicaid and $2.4 billion for the Ryan White Program, as well as $332 million in housing assistance for people living with AIDS and $3.5 billion in prevention and research initiatives through the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
These and other budget items total more than $23 billion in HIV/AIDS-related spending for 2014. While the amount the government spends on these programs is a small part of its overall budget, it’s an important lifeline for many people, including many Latinos.
What can be done?
Because Latinos have so much to gain from HIV/AIDS advances, the CDC has targeted them specifically in a series of new initiatives, including Act Against AIDS and the Care and Prevention in the United States Demonstration Project.
In combination with other programs, the CDC hopes to reduce the stigma against HIV/AIDS and encourage regular testing among Latinos. It also hopes to help more Latinos with HIV/AIDS remain involved in their recommended treatment programs, with special funding for health departments serving their communities.
As an individual, you can be sure to have an HIV screening performed at least once in your lifetime—and the good news is, it’s one of many free preventive care services, so you won’t have to pay a dime for the test. (http://voxxi.com/)

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