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Secretary Kathleen Sibelius: HHS Requires Insurers to Cover HIV Testing for Women

HHS Requires Insurers to Cover HIV Testing for Women
by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, August 25, 2011

Will Help More Women Learn of Their HIV Status

Washington, DC – In an announcement yesterday by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has accepted the recommendations of a recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that private insurers be required to cover annual HIV counseling and screening for sexually active women at no cost.
The AIDS Institute, which has helped lead an effort to increase coverage for HIV testing, commends the Secretary for her decision. ”We are very pleased the Secretary acknowledged our views and IOM’s recommendations that women are at risk for HIV, but frequently do not recognize that they are at risk, which is why annual counseling and screening for sexually active woman is so important,” commented Marilyn Merida, Board President of The AIDS Institute.

The Secretary mandated that new health insurance plans must cover eight preventive health services for women at no cost to patients. Previously, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) required plans to only cover those services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). At the request of the HHS, the IOM committee identified critical gaps in preventive services for women as well as measures that will further ensure women’s health and well-being. HHS used this report to develop these guidelines.

According to the CDC, there are an estimated 232,700 people with HIV in the U.S. who are undiagnosed, including over 53,200 women. The need for increased HIV testing is well known. Not only does knowledge of HIV status benefit the individual so that they can be linked to proper care and treatment, but it helps in prevention efforts as the person will likely takes steps that will lessen the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Under the USPSTF recommendations, private insurance plans would only have to cover HIV testing for pregnant women and women who are deemed at high risk. Basing coverage on perceived risk is inadequate since it often overlooks many women, who may not be aware that they are at risk of HIV.

“The Secretary’s recognition of the need for expanded testing for women will result in earlier diagnoses and better health outcomes for women. The AIDS Institute applauds the decision,” commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute.

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