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ADA, others support legislation to incentivize dentists to enter HIV workforce

HELP Act would offer up to $250,000 in loan repayment

April 21, 2021

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA and more than 80 organizations are supporting legislation to incentivize dentists and other qualified health professionals to help eliminate barriers to HIV treatment and oral health care.

In an April 14 letter to Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., the groups, led by the HIV Medicine Association, thanked the lawmaker for introducing legislation to ensure there are clinicians to care for patients with HIV.

HR 2295, the HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program Act, or HELP Act, would offer up to $250,000 in educational loan repayment to physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical pharmacists and dentists in exchange for up to five years of service at Ryan White-funded clinical sites and in health profession shortage areas.

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funds grants to states, cities, counties and local community-based organizations to provide care and treatment services, including dental, to people with HIV to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations. More than half of people with diagnosed HIV in the United States receive services through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program each year, according to HRSA.

“Remarkable advances in HIV treatment enable people to live near-normal lifespans when diagnosed early and provided with regular HIV care and treatment,” the groups wrote. “With access to HIV treatment and other services, people with HIV can maintain suppression of HIV to undetectable levels, keeping them healthy and stopping transmission to sexual partners.”

Even with these advances, “more than 38,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, and of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., only 62% of adults with HIV had sustained viral suppression,” the groups noted, citing research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Family Foundation. “Disparities in HIV care and treatment are greatest among Black and Latinx Americans, who together represent 69% of new HIV diagnoses, and in the Southern U.S., which accounts for 51% of new HIV diagnoses.”

“At this pivotal time, we have the tools to end HIV as an epidemic in the U.S. and a federal initiative and a plan to do so,” the letter concluded. “The HELP Act is critical to reverse workforce shortages that are particularly acute in the southern U.S and further exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Follow all of the ADA’s advocacy efforts at ADA.org/advocacy.