There are now more than 8,400 people in 13 states on AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting lists. Close to 3,600 of them live in Florida. Patient advocates are highlighting those numbers in a new campaign to pressure President Obama to direct more funds to the program.

The Drug Assistance Programs supply life-saving drugs to HIV/AIDS patients who are uninsured and unable to afford their medications. Waiting lists started to emerge in different states in June 2009 as a cost-containment measure to deal with a shortage in funding.

The National Alliance of State and Territorial Aids Directors shows (.pdf) that as of June 16, 8,404 people are on a waiting list across 13 states — 3,588 of them in the Sunshine State. Florida’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS shows (.pdf) that in the first days of June 3,520 people were on the waiting list, a drop from the 3,850 (.pdf) on the list in May.

Some three-quarters of people on the waiting list live in seven Florida counties: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Pinellas. Broward and Miami-Dade alone have over 1,500 people on the list.

Early this month a group of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, as well as advocates, organizations, and medical providers told President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in a letter (.pdf):

Since the ADAP crisis began, waiting lists have increased from 99 people in June 2009 to 2937 in September 2010 to over 8,100 today. Tragically, there have been deaths attributable to the lack of access to care. Further, ADAP waiting lists are the “Tip of the Iceberg” – a larger crisis looms as more states restrict eligibility thus creating invisible waiting lists of thousands of helpless people who are denied treatment. The crisis confronting the nation’s ADAPs grows worse by the day, and more people will soon be put in harm’s way without an immediate infusion of federal funds into the program.

The letter adds:

In 2010 an additional $25 million for ADAPs was reprogrammed from unspent HHS funds by Presidential order. We beseech you to find at least another $25 million for an immediate transfer into ADAP for FY 2011. [Emphasis added.]

The letter also highlights:

An ugly truth about the ADAP waiting lists is that they disproportionately impact the South, communities of color, and, in many cases, some of the most impoverished areas in the country. In fact, over 94% of ADAP waiting list patients now reside in the South. Florida alone has 3,825 people on its waiting list, has reduced its formulary, and has transitioned 5,403 patients into drug company patient assistance programs. Additionally, there is a major political struggle going on right now over proposals to reduce income qualification from 400% of poverty to 200%.

Florida HIV/AIDS bureau data show that in February 2011 (.pdf), out of 3,400 people on the waiting list, 1,500 were African-American — 44 percent of the total number. The February report indicates that Hispanics represented about 23 percent and whites about 25 percent.

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