GENEVA, Switzerland--Thousands of U.S. AIDS deaths and late-stage cases of the disease could be averted by expanding federal Medicaid coverage of HIV drugs, according to a new study by University of California San Francisco AIDS policy researchers.
"Combination therapy using antiretroviral medications is now available and for the first time offers real hope for controlling HIV infection, but not everyone has access to these drugs," said principal investigator James G. Kahn, MD, MPH, an associate professor of health policy and epidemiology with the UCSF AIDS Research Institute.
"Our analysis was directed at finding an affordable solution to this dilemma, while assessing the health and federal cost implications," he said. Research findings were reported here today (Wednesday, July 1) at the 12th World AIDS Conference.
In the UCSF study, researchers propose expanding the Medicaid system to cover HIV care and related drug therapy for patients who meet two conditions: lack of insurance for HIV antiretroviral drugs and an annual income below $10,000, which is 125 percent of the national poverty level for a single person. The UCSF team is the first to report on this type of benefit expansion.
Study findings show the expansion would result in 9,600 more years of life for persons with HIV disease over five-years. There would be 4,200 fewer deaths with this program, and 11,400 fewer individuals with early-stage HIV infection would progress to late-stage AIDS because of proper drug treatment.
The UCSF analysis compared projected outcomes over a five-year period with and without the expansion. An estimated 38,000 persons would be enrolled in the expansion group. Of these, two-thirds were projected to be HIV positive and in the early stages of infection and one-third to have AIDS.
The analysis took into account the savings that would occur in other federal and
income support programs, such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program that provides
Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
University of California - San Francisco