Thursday, May 21, 2009

HIV exploding in rural Texas but SB188 will not offer local options for rural areas

The Abeline Reporter News reported this week that the city has seen a drastic rise in HIV cases, which is partially due to an increase in injection of methamphetamine. According to Kevin Owens, director of medical services at AIDS Resources of Rural Texas:

"Intravenous methamphetamine abuse in rural areas, which exploded 10 to 12 years ago, can account for new cases, Owens said.

"'A lot of people are now coming in with HIV and hepatitis C,' he said, saying that in his earlier career in rural health in Ballinger he was surprised by the prevalence of such drugs in rural communities."

These increases in cases cost tax payers as well as private health insurance pools. Mr. Owens discussed the cost of these services to taxpayers:

"The gains that have come do come at a cost, he said, with treatments costing a minimum of $1,400 a month.

"But the majority of patients ARRT sees get their medications through the state- and federally-funded Texas HIV Medication Program, paying only a $5 co-pay."

The current version of SB188 only allows local options for disease prevention in Texas counties with over 300,000 residents. Abeline is in Taylor County, a county with 126,555 residents, so the bill will not allow Abeline to choose to prevent these diseases using proven syringe exchange programs.

In its current form, SB188 will only allow the local option in 12 Texas counties: Bexar, Cameron, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris, Hidalgo, Nueces, Tarrant and Travis.

Learn more about HIV in rural Texas here and here.

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