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An AIDS game changer

From the Reverend Deborah C. Warren, founder, president and CEO of RAIN, the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network:

World AIDS Day today provides an annual opportunity to assess how far we’ve come in the fight against AIDS. This year, there’s much more hope that all HIV-positive North Carolinians will soon have full access to life-saving health care.

Full Implementation of the Affordable Care Act with Medicaid expansion in 2014 will enable citizens earning $15,400 or less to access HIV treatment needed to maintain their health, take care of their families, work and pay taxes.

Expanding access to care not only improves health but also results in significant cost savings. Early treatment of HIV is about one-third the cost of treating someone with AIDS. Additionally, consistent access to HIV treatment reduces the likelihood of someone transmitting the disease by 96 percent.

This critical treatment expansion is contingent on Governor-elect Pat McCrory and the North Carolina legislature’s decision of whether or not to expand Medicaid. It’s good for our public health and it makes good economic sense for North Carolina to participate. The federal government pays the vast majority of expansion costs, including the full cost of new enrollees for the first three years, then decreases support gradually to 90 percent by 2020.

Medicaid expansion is a game changer in terms of reducing health disparities and new HIV infections. It saves money. Right now, it’s our best hope for achieving an AIDS-free generation.

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