The Kaiser Family Foundation just released the findings of a survey showing that only 23 states offer routine HIV testing as part of their Medicaid program. The remaining 24 states only offer testing if it “medically necessary.” NJ, HI, WI and Washington, DC did not respond to the survey. 60% of people with HIV live in states with no Medicaid coverage for routine HIV testing, according to the study. Mississippi does offer routine HIV tests for people on Medicaid, but we know that State suffers from the worst HIV infections and treatment.
A study released last year showed that being poor was a bigger predictor of HIV infection than race in major US cities. Because Medicaid insures people living at the poverty line, it makes little sense that people who are most at risk for HIV aren’t being covered for testing on a routine basis. When is it best to test someone for HIV? After they’ve already been infected or before?
When the Affordable Care Act starts in 2014, and millions more people qualify for Medicaid, making sure regular HIV screenings are covered will be an important fight for prevention and treatment advocates alike if it works as proposed. We only can hope and wait.