The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study finding that found that poverty may be the most important risk factor for HIV infection among heterosexuals living in urban areas. One in 42 people living below the poverty line in low-income areas are HIV positive, making this problem a resurgent epidemic.
Low-income people living with this affliction deal with such systemic problems as unstable housing, unemployment, food insecurity, insufficient education, lack of access to quality health care, community violence, social isolation, poor infrastructure, and high incarceration levels. With the cost of antiretroviral drugs at about $10,000 to $15,000 per year for one patient and a waitlist hundreds of names long for the underfunded AIDS Drug Assistance Program, help for most poor HIV-positive individuals is far out of reach.
The findings of this CDCP’s report call on the Obama administration to further fund HIV prevention and treatment programs. But to get at the core of the AIDS epidemic in high-poverty areas, money needs to be spent on tackling poverty itself. Rather than putting a balm on this wound, the federal government should seek to cut the problem off by the root through substantially investing in antipoverty programs that provide those in danger of becoming HIV positive with greater economic opportunity, education, and quality health care.
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