Routine HIV Screening to be Covered Under Obamacare
Yesterday the US Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines recommending that every American between the ages of 15 and 65 be regularly tested for HIV. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance coverage of all preventive services recommended by the task force, which means that regular HIV testing will now be covered under Obamacare as part of a routine check-up.
1.2 million Americans are currently living with HIV - a number which the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention says has been increasing steadily over the last five years. Despite this prevalence, 20 to 25 percent of HIV-positive individuals are unaware they have the virus. There are about 48,000 new cases of HIV each year in the United States.
Previously, only 'high risk' individuals who had unprotected sex with multiple partners or used intravenous drugs were recommended for HIV testing. However, according to the Preventive Services Task Force, up to a quarter of HIV-positive patients report no risk factors. The new guidelines recommend the screening of every American between the ages of 15 and 65, regardless of 'risk.'
HIV screening is an important preventive measure for the purposes of both treatment and transmission prevention. A regular HIV screening that is as common as a cholesterol test will allow HIV-positive patients to start treatment early, while their immune systems are relatively strong, which will increase their life spans. Evidence also indicates that treatment can reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner by up to 96 percent.
"This marks a monumental shift in how HIV in the United States can be prevented, diagnosed and treated," said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute.
Thinkprogress points out that Obamacare also increased resources for HIV research and prevention, helps ensure the affordability of HIV treatment, and prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against Americans based on their HIV status.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .