The Florida Department of Health announced Thursday that its AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list has dropped to a little more than 800 individuals.The AIDS Drug Assistance Program, a nationwide payer of last resort for people who cannot afford their HIV/AIDS medications, has been in a funding crisis since 2010, which prompted many states, including Florida, to implement cost containment measures such as waiting lists. (more…)
President Obama announced today that $50 million in additional funds will be going toward treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
Obama said during “The Beginning of the End of AIDS,” an online conference organized by ONE International, “a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa”:
Today, I’m announcing some new commitments. We’re committing an additional $15 million for the Ryan White program that supports care provided by HIV medical clinics across the country. Let’s keep their doors open so they can keep saving lives. And we’re committing an additional $35 million for state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Now, the federal government can’t do this alone. So I’m also calling on state governments, pharmaceutical companies, and private foundations, to do their part to help Americans get access to all the life-saving treatments.
Florida has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the United States. According to National Alliance of State and territorial AIDS Directors, “as of November 17, 2011, there were 6,595 individuals” (.pdf) on ADAP “waiting lists in 12 states.” More than 3,200 of those people live in Florida.
ADAP provides life saving medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. States have implemented a variety of cost containment measures that include waiting lists since 2010, when ADAPs began facing an ongoing funding crisis.
“With bipartisan support, we reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act,” Obama said today. “And, as I signed that bill, I was so proud to also announce that my Administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America. Because of that step, next year, for the first time in two decades, we will host the International AIDS conference. So we’ve done a lot over the past three years.”
The president added: “We know that treatment is also prevention. And today we’re setting a new target of helping six million people get on treatment by the end of 2013. That’s two million more people than our original goal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs November report issued this week indicates that in the U.S. alone “about 1.2 million people are living with HIV” and “about 240,000 don’t know they are infected.”
Vital Signs adds that “each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. Getting an HIV test is the first step to finding out if you have HIV and getting medical care.”
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, approved in 2010, highlights among other measures the need for increasing access to treatment and focusing on HIV prevention programs.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke at the ONE conference panel, saying HIV/AIDS “is a good example of how government can work with other institutions in society and around the world to be a positive difference maker.”
Rubio added Democrats and Republicans agree that “the U.S. was a great country in the 2oth century” and “some of the debate that’s happening now is whether the United States will remain a great country in the 21st century.”
The senator acknowledged that “we need to recognize that there are still thousands of people in the United States on waiting lists to receive medication, certainly in my home state of Florida that is the case.”
Rubio concluded that the “economy will be even tougher if people around the world are dying, can’t enter the workforce and can’t be our business partners in economic trade and development.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., founding co-chair of the first ever congressional HIV/AIDS caucus, highlighted today the need to increase HIV testing at the domestic level, adding, “We need a domestic PEPFAR; that’s what we are working on.”
PEPFAR, the United States President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was created to “help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world.”
Photo: President Barack Obama (Flickr/The White House)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs November report issued today indicates that
about 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US but about 240,000 don’t know they are infected. Each year, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV in the US. Getting an HIV test is the first step to finding out if you have HIV and getting medical care.
Florida continues to be heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, with the third greatest number of cumulative AIDS cases, 121,161, and the second greatest number of cumulative pediatric AIDS cases, 1,542 reported through 2010. An additional 46,795 cases were reported with HIV (not AIDS), of which 612 were under the age of 13 In Florida alone, there were 95,335 people currently living with HIV/AIDS in the state through 2010; 30 percent among whites, 49 percent among blacks, 19 percent among Hispanics and 2 percent among people of other races. Beyond the 95,335 known people living with HIV/AIDS in Florida, it is estimated that there may actually be up 135,000 people with the disease in Florida, yet 20 percent of them do not know they are infected.
This at a time when Florida is home to almost 50 percent of all the people on AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting lists in the U.S. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (known as ADAP) provides medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured. States have implemented a variety of cost containment measures that include waiting lists since 2010, when an ADAPs began facing an ongoing funding crisis.
The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, NASTAD (.pdf), indicates that as of Nov. 17 there were almost 6,600 individuals on ADAP waiting lists in 12 states. The data shows that more than 3,200 of those people live in Florida.
NASTAD recently stated: “Since the release of final FY2011 Ryan White grant awards in September, including $40 million in ADAP emergency relief funding for states with waiting lists or other cost-containment measures in place, some ADAPs have been able to reduce the overall number of individuals on their waiting list.”
Several HIV/AIDS advocates recently told The Florida Independent that the Sunshine State has received a number of increases worth about $7 million in funding for Ryan White, the federal program that manages ADAP dollars, but they also predicted that the number of people on the ADAP waiting list will eventually rise again.
Responding to a federal report obtained by The Florida Independent that alleges that Florida has mismanaged funds for a program meant to supply HIV/AIDS medications to low-income citizens, Michael Rajner — legislative director of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus — says the state has downplayed how neglect has played an important part in its AIDS Drug Assistance Program’s ongoing funding crisis. #
He also says that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration report shows how the state failed to maximize the impact federal and state dollars could have on the health of people living with HIV. #
The Independent revealed Monday that the report indicates, among many other findings, that salaries for employees whose work is not related to the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program were paid with Drug Assistance Program dollars. #
Rajner says that is unacceptable, “something that needs to be investigated further.” #
“I would add that Florida missed revenue opportunities off this program,” Rajner says. “When the state pays off someone’s drugs, if they paid the copay and the premium, they qualify for the pharmaceutical rebate. Florida has missed out on the opportunity to recover millions of dollars that would have gone to expand access and medications to people who are critically ill, improving the overall health of the HIV/AIDS community in Florida.” #
According to the report, if Florida’s Drug Assistance Program implemented an AIDS insurance assistance program and “funded co-pays and deductibles in addition to health insurance premiums, the State would be eligible for millions of dollars in rebates. Many states throughout the country recoup as much as a dollar to two dollars on pharmaceutical rebates for every dollar spent in an AIDS assistance insurance program.” #
“This federal report will help individuals to become involved, and really understand how this impacts them,” Rajners says. “For the almost 4,000 people on the Florida ADAP waiting list, the question is: Was the ADAP funding deficit really a funding shortage? Could it have been averted? Could we have mitigated the impact and have a 1,000-person wait list?” #
“We are at a critical time,” he says. “We almost need to go back to our roots as an AIDS community. Given the complexity of funding, given the fear of AIDS service organizations to speak out against the state and organize their clients, we need to engage as individuals. We are losing a lot and will lose more if people living with HIV/AIDS continue to have a codependent relationship on service providers. Those providers need to find a way despite … fear of state retaliation to ensure that all the resources are provided to clients to empower and engage them to ensure access to treatment.” #
As an example, Rajner cites the fact that the federal report was given anonymously to the Independent. #
“This is a public record, and the anonymity just demonstrates how weak the HIV/AIDS advocacy community is in Florida,” he says. “It also shows how threatened these advocacy groups are by the state to possibly have their funding targeted.” #
The state’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS yesterday launched a series of public hearings to discuss proposed changes to Drug Assistance Program eligibility. #
Rajner says those hearings — information on upcoming Miami and Tampa hearings is available below — are an opportunity for citizens, doctors and heath care leaders to step up to develop recommendations to solve the Drug Assistance Program crisis. #