Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson plans to send a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services seeking information related to continued access to HIV treatment and care during the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk that the novel coronavirus poses to people living with HIV.
On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists people who are immunocompromised, including those with poorly controlled HIV or AIDS diagnoses, among those at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Roughly half of all people living with HIV are not currently connected to care and receiving treatment to suppress the virus. Additionally, higher rates of cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, and liver disease among those living with HIV may increase this population’s level of risk.
According to the CDC, no specific information is currently available about the risk of COVID-19 in people living with HIV.
“Record layoffs also threaten to endanger access to sustained HIV care as people lose their employer-based health-care coverage,” reads a draft of the letter. “While Congress appropriated $155 million for HIV programs in the CARES Act, including $90 million for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the program may quickly become over-burdened as more people seek aid due to coverage loss or lapses. For people receiving PrEP care to reduce their risk of contracting HIV, disruptions to their prescription medications could also pose a significant threat to their health.”
“I am fearful that communities already hard hit by the HIV epidemic are being ravaged by the novel coronavirus. South Florida is quickly becoming one of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the nation and for years, my district has been among those reporting the highest rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses,” said Rep. Wilson. “It’s crucial that the federal government target its resources and support providers caring for already vulnerable populations.”
The letter, which is slated to be sent to HHS Secretary Azar and CDC Director Redfield on Monday, April 27, requests information about the rate of infections and deaths among people living with HIV, what is being done to study the level of risk for this demographic, challenges that health departments, clinics, and other service providers have reported with continuing to provide treatment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether more funding is needed for HIV programs.
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a fifth-term lawmaker from Florida, representing parts of Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward counties. A former state legislator and school principal, she is the founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and dropout prevention program for boys and young men of color. Congresswoman Wilson also is the founder and chair of the Florida Ports Caucus, a bipartisan taskforce that coordinates federal action to support Florida’s harbors and waterways. The Florida lawmaker sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and chairs the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.