Access to health care is a right

For people living with HIV, not having the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would have limited their access to doctors and drugs. There is no cure for HIV, so without ACA the disease would develop much faster, said Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, Dean, Professor and Director of the Center for Health, Identity Behavior & Prevention Studies at the Rutgers School of Public Health.


What were the potential implications for people living with HIV and AIDS if ACA were canceled?

The decision was monumental, wasn’t it, because the 3 decisions, over the last few years, were 5 to 4 then 6 to 3 and 7 to 2, right? So it seems pretty clear to me that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the Affordable Care Act, which is great, because access to health care is a right. It is a right.

So, for people living with HIV, not having the Affordable Care Act and having [protections for] pre-existing conditions would mean that one of them would have limited access to doctors, limited access to drugs. We have no cure for HIV. I know people believe HIV is over, but it is not over. We have 40,000 new infections every year, there are 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV. Without the Affordable Care Act to allow people to see a doctor and take medication, which keeps them healthy, the disease would develop much faster.

The other thing that we also know very clearly about HIV is that when people are diagnosed and undergo treatment, and they are virally suppressed, they cannot pass the virus on. Thus, the benefit of having access to drugs is also beneficial in preventing the spread of HIV. So, undetectable is untransmittable, that’s something we’ve been working on for years, that slogan. So it would have been devastating for our HIV efforts.

Is there a part of me that feels like 40 years after the fight against HIV started, we should have a vaccine? Of course we should. We have 4 for COVID-19. And one can’t help but wonder how far the United States federal government would have come together to develop a vaccine and cure faster if it weren’t for the marginalized people who were affected by HIV.

If there weren’t homosexuals, Haitians, injecting drug users. If it was the general population that was affected by [HIV], I wonder if the response would have been much faster. But I think there are a lot of activists out there who think the same thing and are, you know, a little angry about it.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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