In his State of the Union address in February 2019, Donald Trump vowed to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.
But if Trump has his way and the supreme court strikes down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the resulting seismic disruption to the healthcare system would end that dream.
Democrats have expressed grave concern that if Amy Coney Barrett is seated on the supreme court, the conservative jurist could cast a decisive vote to destroy the ACA in the California v Texas case scheduled for oral argument starting 10 November. The Senate judiciary committee committee voted to advance Barrett’s nomination on Thursday. A full Senate vote is expected on Monday.
The brainchild of Dr Anthony Fauci and other top brass at the Department of Health and Human Services, the ambitious Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America has received for its debut year $267m in new federal spending, largely targeted at HIV transmission hotspots across the US.
The central aim of the Trump-backed plan is to improve access to antiretrovirals, given that successfully treating HIV with such medications eliminates transmission risk. For HIV-negative people, the plan promotes greater use of PrEP – a daily antiretroviral tablet that cuts the risk of HIV by more than 99% among gay and bisexual men, who are its predominant users and account for seven in 10 new infections.
Given antiretrovirals’ enormous cost, the ACA and its broadening of insurance access serves as backbone to the HIV plan, which seeks a 90% reduction by 2030 to the otherwise slowly declining or stagnant national HIV transmission rate of about 37,000 new cases annually.
“The plan is dead in the water if the ACA goes down,” said Amy Killelea, senior director of health systems and policy at Nastad, an HIV public policy non-profit.
“President Trump’s healthcare agenda, in particular his plan to get the supreme court to rule against families’ healthcare, does more to end access to HIV care than it does to end HIV,” said the Washington state senator Patty Murray.
‘Heartbreaking and morally indefensible’
Kaiser found that between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of the non-elderly HIV population lacking insurance declined from about 18% to 11%. This shift was mainly driven by the expansion of Medicaid in the states that opted under the ACA to open the program to all residents with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level.
About 60% of non-elderly people receiving care for HIV fall into that lowest of income brackets. Forty per cent of people with HIV receive Medicaid, compared with 15% of the general population.
“Striking down the ACA would lead many people with HIV to lose insurance coverage,” said Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.