Increasingly we are hearing words of hope from HIV/AIDS researchers on all fronts - prevention, vaccine and a cure. Almost every week there is a new development that challenges us not to let down our efforts for even a second. In this atmosphere of hope we are seeing an emerging crisis that could seriously dampen the ability of people to have access to those promising new therapies.
Imagine having HIV/AIDS and a new promising drug comes upon the market and because of financial considerations it is not available to you. Can you think of anything worse?
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is in a severe crisis. The program designed to make sure that treatment for HIV/AIDS is made available to all people in need has seen its budget cut back in many states. The waiting list to gain access to the program is growing rapidly and soon will be nearing 10,000 patients. Unless we act soon, the ability to handle the load of the wait list will overcome the program and put it in serious danger. Many promising drugs and therapies simply won't be listed as 'available' in the program and denied to all enrollees.
Charles Blow in "HIV. SOS" in the New York Times writes of this emerging crisis: He writes:
"On the federal level, Washington’s contributions haven’t kept pace with the scope of the problem. In 2000, 68 percent of ADAP budgets came from federal money. Last year, that had dropped to 45 percent. And the state-level lawmakers are making unconscionable choices.
According to data from the ADAP Advocacy Association: as of last week, the number of people on ADAP waiting lists had risen to 7,873; between April 2009 and April 2011, 14 states reduced the number and types of drugs they would pay for. A number of states have stiffened financial eligibility requirements, capped enrollment or removed some people already enrolled. Other states are considering doing so.
This is particularly problematic since the National ADAP Monitoring Project’s annual report, released in March, showed that those most dependent on the program are some of society’s most vulnerable. About a third of all people diagnosed with AIDS are enrolled in ADAPs, three-quarters of them had incomes of less than 200 percent of the national poverty level, 61 percent were uninsured, and 55 percent were black or Hispanic.
But as the recession put more patients in need, federal and state aid didn’t keep track. From 2007 to 2010, the number of people using ADAPs jumped by a third, but federal and state funds specifically appropriated for it grew by just 3 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Not only is it morally reprehensible to restrict or deny life-saving drugs to those who need them (talk about death panels), it is a colossal miscalculation of public health policy, not to mention fiscally irresponsible. "
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