North Carolina Bill Would Declare HIV/AIDS a ‘Public Health Crisis’
Hearings before a North Carolina House panel began Tuesday on a bill that would declare HIV/AIDS a "public health crisis" in the state and appropriate $6.5 million in additional funds for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program and other treatment and prevention efforts, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports. The bill would increase the state's $12.3 million ADAP by an additional $4.5 million and expand the program to those with incomes of 250% of the federal poverty level, up from 125%. It would also allocate $2 million over the next two years to "expand" public education, HIV testing and treatment. The bill's most "controversial" provision requests that the state Department of Health study the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs on reducing HIV transmission. State House Republicans have opposed using government funds for the programs, which they say "promote drug use." Sponsor Rep. Thomas Wright (D) said that the bill does not call for state-sponsored needle-exchange programs, but said that the study could "prompt" private groups to implement programs. The health department supports the bill, according to Carmen Hooker Buell, state secretary of health and human services. The rising number of blacks with HIV in the state prompted the bill; blacks make up 20% of North Carolina's population, but account for 70% of the state's HIV/AIDS cases. "Clearly HIV/AIDS is an example of the health disparities in North Carolina between white North Carolinians and minority black North Carolinians," Buell said, adding that getting rid of the disparity "is without a doubt my top priority within the department" (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 6/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.