The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the implementation of a final decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand coverage to provide for routine screening and testing for HIV infection for all individuals between the ages of 15 and 65 years covered by Medicare.
Routine access to testing will increase the number of persons aware of their HIV health status, promote earlier access to treatment and care, and engage clients in services that promote and support medication adherence.
Yet gaps remain. In the newly released decision, persons over 65 years of age will have to request an HIV test. Research shows that older adults are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV infection late in the course of their disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disease progression from HIV to AIDS in persons 65 years and older accounts for 53 percent of those diagnosed with HIV. The need to extend coverage beyond 65 years of age was highlighted in the February 2015 letter submitted by NASW to CMS.
Of the more than 240,000 clinical social workers in the United States who diagnose and treat mental illness, more than 37,000 clinical social workers are currently Medicare providers. Professional social workers in agencies and clinics providing Medicare eligible services have a critical role in providing prevention and early intervention services to persons living with or at-risk for HIV or AIDS.
Social workers provide the link to community through outreach and case management, and are a critical link to reaching and providing services to the underserved communities increasingly at risk for HIV and at-risk populations.
Learn more about the updated coverage by reviewing the Decision Memo issued by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And to find out how NASW is helping train social workers to help people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS contact Evelyn Tomaszewski, NASW Senior Policy Associate on HIV/AIDS, LGBT Issues, and Violence Prevention at firstname.lastname@example.org.