March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010
Natl Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and it is also National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! We have made it to the middle of another work week and I hope yours has been a safe and great one so far.

The day started off rough for me. I woke up in pain, with a horrible headache and freezing even though I am in south Florida where we are having back to normal temperatures for this time of the year with highs in the 70s and lows in the upper 50s. So I will not be doing a whole lot today except for making sure my four legged children get their walks.

What I would like to talk about today is what today is which I mentioned earlier: National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!

Dab the AIDS Bear honor National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Join us in raising awareness about the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women of color this National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) The World Health Organization announced in November 2009 that HIV/AIDS is now the number one killer of women and girls aged 15-44 worldwide, and in the United States, a woman is infected with HIV every 35 minutes.

Now you have to remember I come from the first days of HIV. In fact I found out when it was still called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). So the fact we have not done better HIV/AIDS education in our country saddens me. The fact now women are infected every 35 minutes saddens me. The fact many of the Americans on the ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) waiting list pisses me off! I lost too many great people and friends when we did not have the life saving HIV medications we have today.

In several cities across the United States, Dab the AIDS Bear is appearing at events with our Ambassadors of Hope in honor of today. So if you are in one of those cities make sure you get your picture taken with Dab the AIDS Bear in support of people living with HIV and AIDS. You will be able to view the pics on Facebook and on this and several HIV/AIDS websites.

HIV testing is understood to be a cornerstone in effective HIV prevention policy. Yet too many women are not tested because they or their healthcare provider do not perceive that they are “at risk.” HIV testing should be routine for all women, as it is during pregnancy. To achieve this goal, the federal and state governments should provide incentives for increased HIV testing, while maintaining important patient protections in the testing process.

In order to increase testing rates, health care providers must be reimbursed by insurance providers for all HIV tests, regardless of the perceived risk of the person being tested. Yet in most parts of the country, providers are only reimbursed for HIV tests given to patients who fall within established categories of risk for HIV. This disproportionately negatively impacts women. While 80% of women who test positive contracted HIV from a male sexual partner, heterosexual sex does not fall within established reimbursable risk categories. Rather for heterosexual women risk is assessed only based on known risk factors of their partner a risk many women are unable to assess accurately.

Some creative solutions to this problem have been put forward. In 2008, California passed landmark legislation that required all health insurers, public and private, to reimburse routine HIV screening. Other states should follow suit. Also, United States Senator Gillibrand of New York has introduced a bill (S. 1446) that would offer financial incentives to Medicaid providers to screen for HIV. Unfortunately this bill links reimbursement with opt out style HIV testing, which is contrary to voluntary opt in testing currently required in NYS.

Testing that require a provider to offer an HIV test create the foundation of a strong patient provider relationship, while those that require a provider to perform an HIV test (even where the patient has the opportunity to decline the test) risk patient confusion, fear, and alienation. If providers are given incentives to encourage routine HIV testing of all their patients, particularly women, the vast majority of women will accept testing as has been shown in the prenatal context in NYS. When women know their HIV status, they can be connected with appropriate care and services, so that they can continue to care for themselves and their families.

So urge your female friends and family members to get HIV tested. You may just save their lives!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab