Monday, December 22, 2014

AIDS Awareness in the Era of Anti-retrovirals, Obamacare, PrEP & Social Media

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

On Monday, December 1st millions of football fans around the world were reminded of an important message during one of the most celebrated sports traditions on television: AIDS Activism is Alive in 2014!

Over 11 million viewers among the key 18-49 ratings demographic during the game saw Bank of America's (Red) TV Spot, 'One Step Closer,' featuring Bono. That number doesn't even reflect other demographics, or the number of people who have subsequently viewed the 30-second spot online.

Although the number of deaths in the United States, and elsewhere around the globe, has dramatically decreased with the advent of high-active anti-retroviral treatments (HAART) the need remains to educate people about HIV/AIDS. Bono states in the 'One Step Closer' spot that America has brought "this pandemic nearly to its knees." He is right, but all stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS must re-commit themselves to this important struggle.

Some might argue that with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, there is less cause for alarm because more people now have access to affordable health care. I disagree. There are emerging issues under the law that appear to disproportionately impact people living with long-term, chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS. What played out with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana is evidence of what potentially lurks ahead. Fortunately for people living with HIV/AIDS, such as John East and others in Louisiana, organizations like Lambda Legal are fighting the good fight.

Medicaid expansion is important, but not the be-all, end-all solution. More and more doctors - especially specialty care physicians - are no longer accepting Medicaid assignment. The reimbursement rates are simply too low. That potentially leaves many patients with access to insurance, but they still cannot access the health care afforded to them. The uneven rollout of Medicaid expansion poses an entirely different set of issues.

The good news is there is still plenty of energy left in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Even the ongoing debate over Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, demonstrates that the passion within the HIV/AIDS community that once led to the Denver Principles is alive and well. Proponents and opponents of PrEP equally have sound arguments to support their respective positions. The community, however, should be mindful not to cut off its nose to spite its face, as the saying goes!

Today, we have new tools at our disposal that were unimaginable when the AIDS epidemic first appeared in the early 1980s. Wanda Brendle-Moss in North Carolina is leveraging Twitter (@WandaBrendleMos) every single day to spread the twin gospels of prevention and treatment. Patrick Ingram in Virginia and Aaron Laxton in Missouri are leveraging YouTube to educate people about HIV/AIDS. The Positive Women's Network (PWN), is unifying the voices of women impacted by this disease on a national level that serves as a model for self-advocacy.

HIV/AIDS might be down, but it certainly is not out for the count. Only by working together will be 'one step closer' to ending AIDS!

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in the NeedyMeds December monthly newsletter.