At public hearings, testimony against restricting eligibility to Florida’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program
HIV/AIDS patient advocates said this week in public debates in Miami and Tampa that they oppose recently proposed cuts to eligibility to the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
Florida’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS held these public debates to discuss their proposals that would reduce access to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program by reducing patient eligibility from 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent.
Michael Rajner, legislative director of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus said at the Miami debate that he opposes any reduction in the Drug Assistance Program because that would eliminate a way to track people who live with HIV/AIDS.
Florida’s Drug Assistance Program has close to 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS on a waiting to get their medications, the longest waiting list in the nation by far. The wait list is one of several cost-containment measures implemented by state officials to deal with a funding crisis that has limited the ability of the program to deliver services.
The state has argued that the funding crisis is a direct result of the current economic recession. But a federal report points out that the state has mismanaged its HIV/AIDS service programs. The majority of the funding for the Drug Assistance Program comes from the federal program.
Rajner said during the Miami public debate that the state needs to do a better job to deliver medication, and that there is a lack of uniformity in how HIV/AIDS state-run programs provide services. (Full video of Rajner’s testimony is available below.)
He concluded that the Bureau of HIV/AIDS needs to make a clear statement that getting medication to people who desperately need them is not only about care and treatment, but also prevention. According to Rajner, the bureau needs to tell Gov. Rick Scott that the state lacks a prevention strategy and needs to get serious to find the funds for prevention, given where Florida ranks in HIV/AIDS cases.
According to a Florida Department of Health 2009 report (pdf.), in 2008 the state ranked third in the U.S. in reported HIV and AIDS cases. Miami and Fort Lauderdale were in 2008 among the nation’s top five metropolitan areas reporting the highest number of diagnosed AIDS cases.
The AIDS Institute — a national public policy research, advocacy and education organization, which attended the Tampa public hearing — said in a written statement that the organization is “saddened that the current condition of the national and Florida economies and state politics have forced a public hearing like this that attempts to put a dollar value on people’s lives.”
The written statement adds:
The AIDS Institute is in opposition to any proposals to reduce the financial eligibility guidelines below400% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for any of the state’s HIV/AIDS programs.
The state must keep people on services currently enrolled in the AIDS Drug Assistance (ADAP) program,as it both saves lives and is the most cost efficient way to provide healthcare and reduce expensive longterm care and treatment.
Read the full AIDS Institute document: