BALTIMORE, MD — The NAACP celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by recommitting itself to the global fight against HIV and AIDS. The ACA provided much needed relief for American families struggling to gain access to quality health care. Further, the ACA paid special attention to issues that are prevalent in minority populations. With the African American community reeling from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the NAACP is redoubling its efforts to combat this epidemic with the same energy used to pass the landmark health care reform.
“We must not forget the devastating effects HIV/AIDS has on communities of color across this country,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “That is why the NAACP has partnered with a number of national organizations to put a stop to the ‘forgotten epidemic’. The NAACP is committed to being a major force behind the education of communities, and a strong advocate for better health services and HIV/AIDS testing. Knowledge is the first step to better health and access to services is critical if we are to overcome this crisis.”
The ACA has made strides to improve access to insurance for people living with HIV/AIDS and help people with these conditions retain the coverage they have under the law. Insurers are prohibited from cancelling or rescinding coverage to adults or children unless they can show evidence of fraud in an application, and insurers no longer impose lifetime caps on insurance benefits or deny coverage to children living with HIV/AIDS. Further, the ACA broadens Medicaid eligibility to generally include individuals with income below 133% of the federal poverty line ($14,400 for an individual and $29,300 for a family of 4), including single adults who have not traditionally been eligible for Medicaid benefits before. As a result, a person living with HIV who meets this income threshold no longer has to wait for an AIDS diagnosis in order to become eligible for Medicaid.
“It is staggering to think that a group of people that makes up only 13 percent of the country’s population includes over half of the newly diagnosed HIV infected individuals each year,” said Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP Chairman of the National Board of Directors. “The uneven distribution of HIV infections indicates that there are specific challenges faced by the African American community that are resulting in an astronomical increase in the rate at which African Americans contract the HIV virus.”
The NAACP’s Health Department is committed to educating, motivating and providing access to HIV/AIDS information and quality of life means. Accordingly, NAACP is working with a number of partners including Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, the Office of Minority Health and our local units in these efforts.
The NAACP’s Health Department is committed to educating, motivating and providing access to HIV/AIDS information and quality of life measures.In the coming weeks, NAACP chapters and branches across the country will continue our efforts to increase HIV/AIDS awareness, by way of community events, forums, education sessions and free HIV testing. In addition, the Association will mobilize faith communities for open discussions about the HIV epidemic, barriers and its impact on the African American community, by way of a 10-city tour that began in the fall of 2010. Support for the initiative is provided by Gilead Sciences, Inc.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population but account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses. 1 in 30 Black women and 1 in 16 Black men will be infected with HIV in their lifetime. One in five HIV-positive Americans – close to a quarter of a million people – have yet to be diagnosed. Alarmingly, African Americans make up the majority of the undiagnosed. Evidence shows that individuals who are unaware of their HIV status are more likely to transmit HIV and less likely to access care and treatment that could improve their quality of life. Additionally, many are diagnosed late in the course of the disease when treatment is less effective. The CDC cite the reasons for the racial disparity as not just related to race, but rather to barriers faced by many African Americans. These barriers include poverty, access to healthcare, and the social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.