The United States is facing a $3.7 billion shortage of medicines to combat the HIV pandemic.
The Obama administration announced a plan Monday to spend $1 billion over three years to build a network of medical providers and clinics across the country to treat the epidemic.
The goal is to give patients access to treatments they would normally have to pay $60 a month or more to pay for in-person testing.
However, the administration is worried that a shortage of meds could force patients to travel out of the country and face the risk of contracting HIV and other STIs.
The plan includes a pilot program in Kansas City, Kansas, to use private funds to provide HIV-specific medication to uninsured patients.
The administration has faced criticism for allowing a drug called Sovaldi to be given free to patients who could not afford it on the open market, but also for allowing the price of the drug to spike during the pandemic, even as other prescription drugs have been steadily rising.
The $1.6 billion plan will be funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which also funds HIV and AIDS research.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the first five months of this year, 6,000 people died of HIV.
The administration estimates that roughly 3,000 Americans will die of the disease this year.
The epidemic is spreading to more than 70 countries, including some that are not covered by the US government’s health care system.
The new program would allow the government to quickly access HIV and STI testing and treatment at a local clinic or to a hospital.
The program would also help patients get medical care without traveling out of their own state or country.
The plan comes as the administration has pledged to work to expand the number of people receiving healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor and disabled.
The US has about 5.4 million uninsured Americans, and about 40 percent of those people are in poverty.