President Barack Obama (Pic by The White House)
President Barack Obama (Pic by The White House)

AIDS Institute wants Obama administration to reverse decision on AIDS drug funds

By | 07.21.11 | 11:03 am

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute, tells The Florida Independent he had to wait over a week to confirm that the Obama administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Programs are limiting how much money each state can receive from recently approved AIDS Drug Assistance Program “emergency relief funding.”

In a document issued earlier this month, the federal HIV/AIDS bureau awards a total of “$50 million in emergency relief funding to states/territories to help improve access to life-saving medications through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.”

The document lays out how the money will be distributed:

  • $10 million will go to all states based on the formula for the disbursement of regular Drug Assistance Program funds.
  • $25 million is available for continued funding to states that received Drug Assistance Program emergency funds in August 2010.
  • $15 million is marked for states that have established and reported waiting lists and/or implemented new cost-containment measures.

It also adds that the maximum amount awarded to any one state will be $3 million. In February, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, proposed the amendment that ultimately secured $42 of the $50 million given to the Health Resources and Services Administration to invest in Drug Assistance Programs across the country.

Brandon Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association, writes to the Independent:

President Obama’s predecessor was widely criticized for ignoring the domestic fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States, but unfortunately he appears to be following in his footsteps. At the very time should be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the National AIDS Strategy being released, our attention is focused on the nearly 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS being denied access to life-saving medications – including over 3,500 Floridians. Despite numerous pleas to the Administration for additional ADAP funding [similar to the $25 million reprogrammed last year], our president refuses to do anything about it. The news now that additional Florida ADAP patients could lose coverage because President Obama is limiting AIDS funding is an absolute travesty of social justice, as well as bad public policy.

“I don’t know why they are doing this, and that’s why I tried to get clarification to make sure this is really true,” the AIDS Institute’s Schmid tells the Independent.

“The problem has gotten bigger in Florida,” Schmid says. He says that Florida received $6.9 million out of $25 million in emergency federal funds for its Drug Assistance Program in July 2010. Now, out of the new $50 million pot of emergency funding, Florida will only receive $3 million.

Schmid points out that in July 2010 — when about 2,100 people in 11 states were on Drug Assistance Program waiting lists, 605 of them in Florida — emergency Drug Assistance Program funds totaled $25 million and the state received $6.9 million. The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors data issued last week show that more than 3,550 people (.pdf) are now on Florida’s waiting list.

“They put people on drugs and how are they going to pay for it?” Schmid says. “Hopefully you can get answers from the administration and the [Florida] congressional delegation who fought so hard to get this money.”

The AIDS Institute says in a press release that due to the decision, “the State of Florida will likely be forced to stop providing AIDS medications to low income people who are currently taking life saving drugs due to limits on how much one state can receive from new federal funding.”

The release adds:

“Once a patient begins taking AIDS medications, it is extremely critical that they continue to take them daily or risk developing drug resistance and dangerous health outcomes,” [said AIDS Institute Executive Director Michael] Ruppal. “We can’t imagine the Obama Administration, which has touted the benefits of AIDS treatment, would punish hundreds of AIDS patients in Florida by not even continuing the $6.9 million needed so they can continue to take their medications. We ask that they reconsider this decision and provide Florida with a greater share of the available funding.”

AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, 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.

Since April, Florida — which has the longest Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the U.S. — has been considering changing its income eligibility requirements from 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent.

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