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|Georgia’s AIDS drug program funds ‘in the balance’ as legislature comes to a close|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|April 06, 2011 15:53|
More than 1,000 people are currently on Georgia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list and funding for the program is threatened with cuts, according to Georgia Equality.
In an email today titled "ADAP funds in the balance," Georgia Equality said that as of April 1, there were 1,278 people waiting to receive life-saving drugs to treat HIV and AIDS. ADAP provides the medication to low-income people who have no other options for receiving medical care.
When the state House passed its version of a budget, members cut $600,000 from ADAP. However, that money was restored by the Senate but now the funding issue sits in committee to see if the program will retain this money or not. The Georgia legislature is set to finish up April 14.
“[A]ny cuts to our current ADAP budget would be devastating,” states Georgia Equality in a press release. “Compounding the issue, cuts to ADAP by the state would also jeopardize federal matching funds.”
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, is in Washington, D.C., this week with other Georgians lobbying for additional ADAP funding before Congress is expected to finalize its budget on Friday.
“We must support an increase on the state level as well if we are going to have any hope of federal support next year,” Georgia Equality states.
“As advocates, we are interested in working with Department of Community Health to implement cost savings mechanisms. However, any cost savings should be used to ease or eliminate the waiting list which continues to grow at a rate of about 30 people per week,” Georgia Equality states.
“Increasing funding for ADAP now will help save money in the future; it is much more costly to treat AIDs once it has progressed to the point of hospitalization. Providing these medications not only keeps people living with HIV out of the hospital, it also allows them to lead normal, healthy, and productive lives,” Georgia Equality states.
HIV/AIDS activists have been warning of a looming crisis in Georgia if ADAP is not fully funded. The state waiting list was implemented in July.
In December, activists gathered at the State Capitol to urge then Gov.-elect Nathan Deal to add $5 million to the ADAP program.
Graham explained there is a $15 million shortfall in the state’s ADAP program and hopes were to receive $5 million from the state and $10 million from the federal government.
Asking Deal to add $5 million to the ADAP program will be difficult, Graham said in December, but the result would actually be cost effective to the state overall.
“Keep one thing in my mind. It costs $9,000 per year per person on ADAP. If people don’t have access to meds early on they will develop AIDS. The cost of treating someone with AIDS is much more costly and if someone is hospitalized the cost can reach $150,000,” Graham said.
When Deal served in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was supportive of funding the Ryan White Act, which provides federal funding to AIDS programs including ADAP. And Graham noted that Gov. Sonny Perdue never recommended cuts to ADAP.
“We hope Deal does the same,” Graham said.
Top photo: Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality made a plea for more funding for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program at a press conference in February. As the state legislature comes to a close, funding for the program faces funding cuts. (by Dyana Bagby)
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