Gov. Rick Scott (Photo: flgov.com)
Florida’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list increased to 949 people as of Thursday, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (aka NASTAD).
NASTAD data (.pdf) also indicates that Florida’s ADAP waiting list ranks third in the U.S., with 22 percent of the 4,300 individuals on waiting lists in 12 states.
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program, known as ADAP, is a federally funded nationwide payer of last resort for people who cannot afford their HIV/AIDS medications. The program has been in a funding crisis since 2010, which prompted many states, including Florida, to implement cost containment measures (.pdf) such as waiting lists.
Michael Rajner, a South Florida AIDS activist, told The Florida Independent that in December’s ADAP work group meeting with the state, “it was reported that the ADAP list would grow by approximately 300 people each month.”
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, issued a letter last week urging Gov. Rick Scott to “support its ADAP, as well as its Medicaid program, to the greatest extent allowed by its current budgetary considerations.”
In response to inquiries from the Independent about Hastings’ letter, Jackie Schutz, the deputy press secretary for Gov. Scott’s office wrote this week: “While Gov. Scott did not propose additional funding to ADAP in his 2012-2013 budget recommendations, he is looking at the whole program with the goal of reducing unnecessary administrative costs and making it operate more efficiently so that more people can be served with the funds we already have.”
Jessica Hammonds from the Florida Department of Health wrote to the Independent that upon receipt of the Ryan White federal funds,
on September 1, 2011, Florida ADAP began enrolling clients from the waiting list into the program based on projections and program capacity. Since then, the waiting list has been reduced from a high of 4,057 in May, 2011 to 850 applicants as of February 10, 2012. While we expect a wait list into the new Ryan White fiscal year which begins April 1, 2012, much is based on the economy, demand for services, funding and funding needs.
Hammonds added that “to serve additional clients from the wait list, DOH’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS continues to work with federal and state officials as well as with community partners to secure additional resources. The Bureau also continues to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to simplify and expand access to patient assistance programs throughout the country and participates in negotiations to obtain lower prices for HIV/AIDS medications.”
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)