Today, in response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger™s news that he will likely veto hundreds of bills in the ongoing budget negotiations, health care experts and AIDS activists called him to sign AB1894 (Krekorian).

In the coming days, California will go through an unprecedented debate where each bill is even more carefully weighed “ and only a select few will be signed. Governor Schwarzenegger should sign AB 1894 because HIV/AIDS is a public health issue that transcends politics, said Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

AB 1894 (authored by Assembly Member Paul Krekorian) would improve and modernize the way California diagnoses and prevents HIV/AIDS. It requires all group and individual health insurance plans to pay for an HIV test regardless of whether the testing is related to a primary diagnosis or the patient is showing symptoms.

The legislation is based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation that everyone in the United States (aged 13-64) be regularly tested for HIV to help stop the spread of this disease. Following passage of last year™s AB 682 (Berg), which eliminated the requirement of written informed consent prior to conducting an HIV test, AB 1894 is widely viewed as the critical next step in making routine HIV testing a standard medical practice.

A 2006 study by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control found that most people who progressed to AIDS within a year of their initial HIV diagnosis had up to five doctor visits within the previous year.

If you were one of the 40,000 Californians unknowingly living with HIV/AIDS “ would you want to wait? We have a public health responsibility to give a voice to the undiagnosed, said Richard Frankenstein, MD, President of the California Medical Association. AB 1894 would help diagnose the undiagnosed and get them into treatment earlier “ when it™s more effective and can reduce suffering and mortality.

The CDC recently released data showing that the United States has been under-estimating HIV infections by more than 40 percent (annually) for the past ten years. It also confirmed the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS is having on minority communities:

  • Black men suffer six times, and black women suffer 15 times, the rate of infection as whites.
  • In some areas, AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women aged 25-34.
  • Latino males suffer 2.2 times, and Latinas suffer 3.8 times, the rate of infection as whites.

I urge the Governor not to lose sight of this important opportunity to signal to the rest of the country that we will not stand in this day and age to have 25% of Californians living with HIV/AIDS unaware of their infection or to have 70% of new infections occurring in minority communities, said Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The Governor should sign AB 1894 because the current system is simply not doing enough to help hundreds of thousands of individuals know their status, access treatment, and reduce the risk of transmission.

The time to act is now. Every day that we do not take aggressive action to reach the undiagnosed and try to prevent new transmissions is another day wasted, said Dana Van Gorder, Executive Director of Project Inform. By signing this landmark piece of legislation, Governor Schwarzenegger will save lives in the short (and long) term and send a strong message to the rest of the country that we can do more to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation™s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 80,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Ged Kenslea, 323-860-5225
Mobile: 323-791-5526
gedk@aidshealth.org

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