The feds recommend treatment for HIVers with 350 T cells or less, but Medicaid—which covers more than half of PWAs in the U.S.—aids only those with AIDS: fewer than 200 T cells.
In April, Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) introduced ETHA—the Early Treatment for HIV Act of 2003 (S 847)—to extend state Medicaid to low-income HIVers before they get AIDS. San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Ernest Hopkins says data show that expanded coverage could cut AIDS deaths by 50 percent. Jeff Crowley, of Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, says, “ETHA would allow people with HIV to demand that state policymakers offer them coverage.”
Other AIDS activists say the focus now should be on saving Medicaid itself from destruction. But it’s worth raising your voice for ETHA: Tell your congressional reps that states should be given the ETHA option because Medicaid access and early care are essential to people with HIV.