Sen. Bill Nelson, the state's senior U.S. Senator, is taking notice and letting both President Obama and newly-inaugurated Governor Rick Scott know that if they let the state's ADAP crisis go any longer, Florida faces a catastrophic public health situation. Sen. Nelson sent letters to both Gov. Scott and President Obama on January 21, urging immediate attention. (H/T Michael Emanuel Rajner at Bilerico)
"Recently, state officials announced that their ADAP program faces a significant budget shortfall, any may be unable to provide any medication from the beginning of February until a new round of Federal funding from the Ryan White Act becomes available on April 1," Sen. Nelson wrote President Obama (pdf). "Such a lapse in treatment can lead to a number of life-threatening conditions for the thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in Florida who rely on ADAP medication to maintain their quality of life as they struggle with this debilitating disease."
Yikes. So not only are 2,700 patients not receiving life-saving medications, but many others might be denied medications in eight days? Yup, that's how you spell C-R-I-S-I-S.
Sen. Nelson had a similar message for Gov. Scott, the Tea Party millionaire activist turned governor who has vowed to slash spending by upwards of $4 billion in the state. Sen. Nelson's letter to Gov. Scott is significant, because it marks Nelson's first official communication with the new governor. That Sen. Nelson focused on ADAP funding should say quite a bit about the dire situation facing patients in Florida.
"I would ask that you please try to find any additional state resources to keep the program fully operating in the next few months," Sen. Nelson wrote (pdf).
As writer Elizabeth Lombino noted here last week, the ADAP crisis is not just a small problem -- it's a downright scary crisis that has major implications for public health. If 2,700 people in Florida aren't receiving essential medications to treat HIV, those people are at much greater risk of seeing their HIV develop into AIDS and become life-threatening. If thousands more are dropped from the ADAP program at the beginning of February, as alluded to in Sen. Nelson's letter to President Obama, the disastrous impact only increases in scale.
And if Florida thinks they have a budget crisis now, imagine how much a public health crisis will cost with thousands upon thousands of people not receiving treatment for their HIV.
Send Gov. Scott and Florida's state legislature a message that the ADAP crisis deserves immediate attention. The longer we wait, and the more patients put on waiting lists for life-saving medications, the closer we get to reaping a major public health disaster.