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Marcos Restrepo, FL Independent: Ryan White HIV/AIDS program turns 21 amid Drug Assistance Program funding crisis

Ryan White HIV/AIDS program turns 21 amid Drug Assistance Program funding crisis
by Marcos Restrepo, August 19, 2011

The Ryan White program, named after a teenager who died of AIDS, is celebrating 21 years of existence while the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, one of  its most important components, faces an ongoing funding crisis.

Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13. He and his mother Jeanne White Ginder fought for his right to attend school, gaining international attention as a voice of reason about HIV/AIDS,” according to a website about the program named for White. White died in April 1990, months before Congress passed the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act.

National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors data shows (.pdf) that as of Aug. 11, there were more than 9,200 people living on an AIDS Drug Assistance Programwaiting list. The program provides medications for the treatment of HIV and AIDS for people who cannot afford to pay because they are unemployed, uninsured or underinsured.

With almost 3,800 people, Florida’s AIDS Drug Assistance Prorgam waiting list is the longest in the U.S. The data shows that 41 people joined the waiting list between Aug. 4 and 11.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, issued a statement today, saying, “Over the past 21 years, the Ryan White program has served as a lifeline to millions of low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS.”

Hastings added, “Modern medicine has allowed more people to have longer, richer lives with HIV/AIDS than ever before, but getting them into treatment is another story.”

Hastings, as well as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson, recently helped reverse an Obama administration decision that would have limited the amount of dollars Florida could receive for its AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Florida — along with 19 other states — has implemented other cost-containment measures such as reduced prescription drug lists. Since April, the Sunshine State has been considering changing its income eligibility requirements from 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent.

Simply put: Under the proposed change, a person who earns $30,000 a year would not qualify for the Drug Assistance Program. HIV/AIDS drugs cost between $10,000 and $20,000 a year.


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