Washington Notebook Treating HIV more quickly

WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration is developing two initiatives that could significantly expand markets for protease inhibitors by supporting payment for early treatment of HIV infection. The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing standard of care guidelines that will recommend that patients who have been exposed to the virus be offered "triple combination" (two nucleoside analogs and one protease inhibitor) therapy while their immune systems are intact. The guidelines should prompt insurance providers, including federal agencies and programs, to pay for combination therapy for HIV-positive patients who have not yet developed AIDS symptoms, according to AIDS activists.

In a related measure, the administration is completing a review of a proposal to extend Medicaid payments to cover low-income persons who are HIV-positive but have not yet developed debilitating symptoms of AIDS.