Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Lucile Scott , July 20, 2012
Photo courtesy of ADAP Advocacy Association
Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program wait lists would become a thing of the past, an essential step toward the AIDS free generation Obama has promised to fight for. The administration announced that nearly $80 million in grants would go to 25 states and territories to not only end the lists of people waiting to get the life saving meds they need that currently exist in 9 states, but also get 14,000 new people with HIV the care they need. “The entire Administration is dedicated to fulfilling President Obama’s goal of an AIDS free generation and today’s announcement is one more step in that ongoing effort,” said Sebelius. “These grants will help make a real difference in the lives of Americans living with HIV/AIDS, especially those in underserved communities.”
Advocates responded to the announcement with cautious optimism, as the over 2,000 people currently languishing on those lists are just the tip of the treatment access ice berg in the country, and getting the remaining 600,000 HIV positive people currently without treatment in the country on it, will require additional funding, programs and dedication. “The ADAP Advocacy Association applauds President Obama for this bold move, but cautions that thousands of patients have been adversely affected by other cost containment measures, such as eligibility restrictions, drug formulary reductions, capped enrollment and client cost sharing, just to name a few. These patients must not be forgotten,” said Brandon M. Macsata, CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association.
The grants include a $69 million fund that will be divvied up through Ryan White to the 25 states and territories based on need and size, ranging from $7 million slated for California to $125,000 for Wisconsin. The remaining $10 million will go to Ryan White funded community health clinics to increase their patient base. While some of the funds were made available by the Affordable Care Act, questions remain about where the money came from in these budget slashing times, and if someone else will have to pay with their health. “It shows how the administration can find the resources for real priorities that impact people living with HIV/AIDS. I just hope that this infusion of funds is not being pulled from other important areas,” said Christine Campbell, Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing at Housing Works.
The move came in one of final news cycles before the International AIDS Conference kicks off and on the heels of AIDS community-wide ire towards the President for choosing not to step up and speak in person at IAC, which would have increased national exposure for the issues, sparking additional skepticism from some. “Ultimately, a flurry of press releases in response to criticism is not a suitable substitute for good public health policy and more action from the administration will be needed to ensure that all Americans in need of HIV/AIDS medications have access to them,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, adding, “The funding that was announced today is not new money. It was actually appropriated at the end 2011 and is only now being distributed. Meanwhile, thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS have been languishing on ADAP waiting lists while this funding distribution was delayed.” Regardless, for the 2,030 people currently living each day in the shadow of a ticking clock, this will be a very good weekend.
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