HIV epidemic waiting to happen
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 1:23 pm
By: Bo Bradshaw, Tennessee News Service
Nashville – Tennessee is facing a possible HIV epidemic, according to new research from Duke University and the Southern HIV-AIDS Strategy Initiative. The report finds that 35 percent of newly-reported HIV infections came from eight southern states in 2009, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Proposed budget cuts already threaten HIV prevention and treatment programs, and Joseph Interrante, CEO of the HIV/AIDS service organization Nashville Cares, says these would have a devastating public health impact.
“We know today that treatment is prevention, and treating somebody in the early stages of HIV costs about half as much as it does to treat someone later.”
He says early treatment saves more than $20,000 per patient, per year, and that when people living with HIV or AIDS get the health care and medications they need, they can live healthy and productive lives without risk of transmitting HIV to others.
Interrante says Tennessee receives more than $30 million annually in federal funding for HIV/AIDs education, prevention and treatment programs.
Medicare and Medicaid provide even greater financial support and, in his view, everyone benefits from the funding.
“It’s a ‘win-win’ situation to keep this funding going. It’s an investment that saves lives and saves money, both now and in the future.”
Allen Pinedo, who lives with HIV, relies on support from Medicaid and programs like Nashville Cares. He says cuts to those programs would likely put him in a no-win situation.
“I would have to make a choice: if I want health care, food or shelter. It would be very devastating to have to make that choice, which ones I want.”
The data also indicates more than 99 percent of all people on waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs live in the South.
Tennessee is one of the few southeastern states without a waiting list for its program, although increasing demand is expected to change that in 2012.