Today is World AIDS Day and the North Carolina AIDS Action Network is encouraging people who are at risk of HIV or who are HIV positive to enroll in health insurance during open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.
Action network executive director Lee Storrow points to research from the University of Virginia which shows people who are HIV positive are less contagious to partners when they have access to health care. And people who take a pill called PrEP are less susceptible.
"Virally suppressed individuals are not going to transmit HIV to a partner, and that's really remarkable when we think about both viral suppression as a tool that supports people living with HIV to live long health lives and that also supports our prevention goals," he said.
The action network is working to improve health insurance access for people who are HIV positive. Storrow praised the General Assembly for approving the state's Health Insurance Premium Payment program. That's for people with a high-risk illness who can cannot pay their premiums. He added he regrets that North Carolina did not expand Medicaid.
“There are thousands of North Carolinians living with HIV who would then be able to access health insurance,” Storrow said. “It would obviously significantly increase our capacity to get individuals who might be at risk of acquiring HIV into care, into accessing PrEP, into a primary care provider.”
Storrow said the group continues to promote condom use and other methods to prevent the spread of STDs.
“In 2018, we are going to be talking both with our department of Health and Human Services and the General Assembly about how we can allocate funding and how we can just better set up our testing infrastructure for individuals who are negative but who might be at risk of becoming HIV positive,” Storrow said. “There's just no excuse to not ensure that they have every access to PrEP that they need to prevent new transmissions.”
There are two weeks left to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.