On Wednesday, GLAAD joined AIDS United and over 90 leading HIV and LGBTQ organizations in an open letter calling on members of Congress to acknowledge the increased risk of many people living with HIV to novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The letter, organized by AIDS United, calls on these decisionmakers to craft a relief package that takes the unique needs of this population into account.
As concerns over the spread of COVID-19 continue to grow, the letter outlines how “given that only 53% of people living with HIV in the United States have an undetectable viral load and that 60% of the people living with HIV in the United States are age 50 or older, a large swath of the U.S. population living with HIV is at great risk during the rapid spread of COVID-19.”
The letter also details that Congress’ relief package in response to COVID-19 must consider “the unique needs of people living with HIV to ensure their continued safety, health, and well-being.” As outlined, the signatories of the letter support the current relief package proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but argue that it must be more comprehensive.
The letter suggests 15 additional relief considerations, including:
- Mandated public, daily reporting on COVID-19 testing, incidence, prevalence, and related death;
- Accessible and scaled testing measures in order to provide sufficient surveillance; explicit, universal protocols for presumptive positives awaiting confirmatory tests; and reporting on the number of presumptive positives;
- Waivers of refill limits on maintenance drugs, inclusive of antiretrovirals, for people with chronic conditions like HIV and hepatitis;
- Explicit authorization for and coverage of telemedicine for COVID-19 care;
- Flexibility with funds and associated deliverables for recipient organizations of federal grants, cooperative agreements, and other awards;
- Rental and mortgage assistance for workers whose income streams are diminished or eliminated by mandatory closures
- Suspensions on utility disconnections and eviction and foreclosure proceedings;
- Suspension of student loan debt payments
- Prevention of overcrowding in public institutions, including the release of all individuals currently in jails, prisons, pretrial holding facilities, and immigration detention who have not been convicted of a crime involving physical or sexual violence
- Moratorium on implementation of the public charge rule so immigrant communities aren’t discouraged from accessing COVID-19 testing and care
- Incentives for banks, debt collectors, and other financial institutions to cease collections activity and interest accrual until epidemic control is achieved
- Use of the National Disaster Medical System to cover uninsured people with Medicare for any recommended care
- Temporary increase of the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage
- Additional and accelerated funding for treatment and vaccine research; and
- Commitment to free access to treatment and vaccination, once identified
AIDS United also started a petition to tell Congress that the health and safety of the entire nation, but particularly those of us living with HIV, rests in the hands of a comprehensive response to COVID-19. Sign the petition here.
Tell Congress that the health and safety of the entire nation, but particularly those of us living with HIV, rests in the hands of a comprehensive response to the coronavirus #COVID_19 epidemic.
— AIDS United (@AIDS_United) March 18, 2020