'Absolutely devastating': How Trumpcare would affect the fight against HIV.

Matthew Limpede takes a pill that gives him protection, peace of mind, and a reassuring sense of community.

That pill is the drug Truvada, more commonly referred to as "PrEP" (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis). And it's been a game-changer in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"I think for the whole [gay] community and for me personally, [PrEP has] lifted us up to a place of being more responsible for our own health," Limpede explains.


If taken as directed, PrEP is 99% effective in stopping the transmission of HIV. It's mostly used by HIV-negative men and women who are more at risk of exposure to the virus.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Limpede.

From Limpede's own experiences, the drug isn't just about personal protection, either — it has encouraged more gay and bisexual men to have important conversations about staying safe with their sexual partners, building a sense of openness and honesty within the LGBTQ community. Those conversations have helped destigmatize those who are HIV-positive, too, he says — people who can live long and healthy lives while being sexually active.

The only way Limpede was able to get on PrEP was because of an insurance plan provided through the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

And he's definitely not the only one.

Jim Pickett, director of prevention advocacy and gay men's health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, says about 110,000 people across the U.S. started using PrEP between 2012 and February 2017. The ACA played a big role in making that happen.

"PrEP is quite a robust intervention," he says. "It's not just a niche thing for gay men."

Photo illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Making PrEP more accessible has become an increasingly important component of a broader strategy to prevent HIV among groups most vulnerable to the virus, such as transgender women, gay men — particularly gay men of color — and cisgender (non-transgender) black women, according to Pickett.

While PrEP accessibility has grown significantly in the past few years, it's just the tip of the iceberg, Pickett says. About a million more people living at high risk of HIV exposure are good candidates to go on the drug if we can just keep expanding efforts where they're needed most.

Under the current Congress and administration, however, that's shaping up to be quite the tough task.

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, access to PrEP would take a blow, causing a major setback in our fight against HIV/AIDS.

Image via iStock.

Without health insurance, the price tag for PrEP is about $1,500 a month. With insurance, most people pay between $0 and $500.

Without significant help from an insurer, most Americans can't afford PrEP. Through the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which mostly helped low-income folks — notably, the same groups most affected by HIV/AIDS — PrEP was made accessible in 31 states plus Washington, D.C. Other patients, like Limpede, found the drug was available for free through their ACA plans.

This progress would be reversed under the American Health Care Act, the GOP's plan to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). In the new proposal — one that would cause an estimated 24 million Americans to lose their health care coverage over the next decade — the ACA's Medicaid expansion would phase out. As a result, thousands of people — again, mostly the at-risk groups who desperately need it — would lose access to PrEP.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

New HIV diagnoses fell 19% overall from 2005 to 2014, according to the CDC (although progress has been uneven depending on demographics, with some groups seeing increases). With repealing the ACA, we risk reversing this long-term trend.

"If Trumpcare were to be enacted as written, it would be a devastating blow to all of our HIV efforts, both care and prevention," Pickett says. "It would be absolutely devastating."

"If less people are on PrEP, we'll have more HIV infections," Pickett emphasizes. "HIV is forever — that's a cost forever — and that's an increased burden on a system that's overburdened."

Although living a long and healthy life while being HIV-positive is possible, that's only the case for people with access to ongoing health care and treatments that don't come cheap or easy.

For people like Limpede, who has even contemplated moving from Texas to Massachusetts if it means keeping his health care and PrEP access intact, tossing aside life-changing provisions isn't just politics as usual.

It's deeply personal.

"Repealing something like this — that's going to hurt minorities, that's going to hurt people who are low on the socioeconomic scale. It feels very pointed and purposeful," he says. "That's definitely a concern."

Image via iStock.

The HIV/AIDS advocacy community is getting ready for a battle because this is a fight they can't afford to lose.

"The community's main focus now is making sure that Trumpcare does not see the light of day and stopping these harmful provisions in the bill from happening," Limpede says. "We're fighting tooth and nail."

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.