TEXAS (KXAN) — Preliminary reporting by America’s HIV Epidemic Analysis Dashboard (AHEAD) has found the number of Texans who need HIV prevention medication and receive it is declining.
Early data indicates a smaller percentage of people diagnosed with HIV in Texas are receiving medical care for it within one month of the person’s diagnosis. In 2021, 79.2% of diagnosed patients received medical treatment in that first month; come 2022, that percentage had dipped to 72.6%.
Christopher Hamilton, chief executive officer of Texas Health Action, told KXAN that while substantial progress has been made nationally in reducing HIV transmissions, funding levels have remained stagnant for those seeking treatment for an existing infection or who are taking preventative medications.
“We don’t have a dedicated source of funding for HIV prevention through [Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP] — there is not a federal program that provides like it does for people living with HIV,” Hamilton said. “So there is a missing piece to this puzzle.”
Data has shown a growth in HIV infections in the United States in areas where there isn’t expanded Medicaid options that help support uninsured patients, Hamilton added.
Hamilton oversees Texas Health Action, a nonprofit that assists Austinites through providing HIV prevention services at the Kind Clinic.
THA reported a 53% loss in revenue in last year following cut backs on Gilead’s reimbursements for HIV prevention medications. Gilead is a major manufacturer behind HIV medications and PrEP.
Prior to that reimbursement cutback, THA could acquire medications at discounted rates, while the insurance company would reimburse at its regular rate.
“The difference between that discount and reimbursement comes back to us as savings that we use to provide care for people who are uninsured, underinsured or may have other difficulty affording that that covers doctor visits, lab work, other medications,” Hamilton said.
When that reimbursement process ended in January 2022, that led to a $9.2 million loss, impacting THA’s 40% uninsured patient population. Since, THA has turned to fundraising efforts through Amplify Austin as well as is seeking assistance from the City of Austin and Central Health to support its efforts.
“This is critical importance, that we continue this momentum in reducing HIV transmission in our community,” Hamilton said.