Yesterday, a new study on Virginia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) was released in Clinical Infectious Diseases, one of the leading scientific journals of infectious diseases. The study looked at a cohort of individuals enrolled in Virginia’s ADAP. About half of the individuals were enrolled in a qualified health plan with premium and co-payment assistance from ADAP, and the other half only received HIV medication.
The study found that access to full health insurance was associated with better viral suppression rates by 6 percentage points, “an essential outcome for individuals and public health.” Dr. Kathleen McManus, the lead author of the study, talks about the outcomes in this video.
As Dr. McManus notes in the video, there are some “political questions about this study… Good health outcomes shouldn’t be a partisan issue.” While North Carolina does offer co-pay assistance for those living with HIV, we are one of just a few states in the country that does not support access to health insurance for ADAP clients by paying for premiums. Lack of assistance with premiums has resulted in underutilization of the co-pay assistance that is offered. In North Carolina, only 180 ADAP clients were in the insurance assistance program as of April 8, 2016, in contrast to over 3000 clients in Virginia. With this study, there is clear scientific evidence about the benefit of premium assistance. The North Carolina General Assembly needs to follow the lead of Virginia and enact premium assistance in short order during the legislative short session this year.
Lee Storrow is the executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network. Allison Rice is the director of the Health Justice Clinic at Duke Law School and a member of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network Board of Directors.