I don’t think we need to create any new laws. If I were a congresswoman, I would work to protect the laws that have already been passed by Congress and defended by the Supreme Court. Currently there are several laws that are being jeopardized and changes to them or repeal could negatively impact those living with HIV. The Ryan White Care and Treatment Act is due for reauthorization, the Affordable Care Act which includes expanded Medicaid coverage for low and middle income individuals is coming under attack, and a women’s right to choose the outcome of her pregnancy as protected by the Constitutional Right for Privacy and upheld by the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade is in jeopardy.
If the Ryan White Care Act isn’t reauthorized or is funded at a lower amount, it will result in a loss of funding for programs that provide coverage for health care, medication, and supportive services like case management. Services such as these are essential to ending the HIV epidemic and keeping people who are living with HIV healthy and undetectable. Without the Affordable Care Act, low income and middle income Americans may be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions like HIV. Being undetectable is essential to preventing HIV transmission and remaining contributing working members of society. Without guaranteed medical coverage, we are guaranteed disability and death. If women lose the right to make decisions over their reproductive health, we push women to unsafe abortions or the births of children that are neither wanted or able to be cared for; the reasons may vary—finances, domestic violence, disability, timing, rape, homelessness, mental illness. It is important for women alone to make that choice with the support of trained health care providers. While abortion for many is a deeply moral and religious issue, at the end of the day no one wants to be told what to do with their bodies…in any capacity.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic or doomsday but we must continue to advocate for the laws and federal dollars that protect people living with HIV. We cannot settle for anything less than the protections we are currently afforded, and must hold our legislators accountable for protecting the 1.2 million of us who are their constituents and community members. Politically, the important causes are where money is allocated–we must remain relevant and be vigilant to stop those who would diminish us or jeopardize our health. I’m not a congresswoman, but every 2-4 years, I have the power to vote for one. It is a responsibility that all PLWHA should take seriously.