Who Will Care for New U.S. AIDS Cases?
Plans to Find 250,000 Hidden U.S. HIV Infections -- but no Plan for Their Care
Caretakers Struggling to Keep Up
The problem is evident in the Birmingham AIDS clinic run by University of
Alabama researcher Michael S. Saag, MD.
Saag notes that most of his clinic's patients don't show up for HIV tests
until they already have AIDS.
Such patients' treatment costs are vastly higher than those of patients
diagnosed earlier in the disease. Yet their drug costs -- the costs most likely
to be reimbursed by government AIDS funds -- are only a fraction of their
health care costs.
"The reimbursement to providers is extremely low," Saag said at the
news conference. "We collect $360 per patient per year. Clinics like ours
have been flat-funded for years, despite a 60% to 70% increase in
That means Saag's clinic loses a staggering $1.1 million a year -- before
the effects of routine HIV tests are felt.
Saag said routine testing -- followed by effective treatment -- will cut
long-term costs. But treatment, he insisted, has to be part of the
Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, agreed.
"It is not what we are doing that is wrong; it is what we are not
doing," Fauci said.
"As we expose this societal lesion -- having more people infected than
in care -- I would not slow the momentum of testing," said Fauci. "I
hope that is the engine that ignites more activity in getting more people into