June 17, 2011
Texas legislators have approved level funding, $96.7 million, for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), but they turned down a request for $19.2 million in additional funds for the growing program. Texas was facing a $23 billion budget shortfall.
Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, said more funding might be made available if ADAP runs out of its two-year appropriation.
Zachary Thompson, director of the Dallas County health department, said the funding gap likely will result in cost shifting to the counties where AIDS patients seek treatment. "We're going to see an increase in visits at our public hospital," he predicted. "We should not be balancing the state budget on the backs of those who need the funds most."
"The state health department has promised that it will not disenroll anyone on the program," said Sylvia Moreno, nursing director of the HIV Department at Parkland Memorial Hospital. "New people who are diagnosed with HIV will probably end up on a waiting list," she said.
Christine Mann, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said new ADAP eligibility guidelines are being drafted. "We'd like to make the changes in eligibility apply to new applicants only," she said. "But we are anticipating the shortfall."
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the first reports of AIDS. A 2009 state health department report logged 109,288 cumulative HIV cases; about 60 percent of these patients were still living as of the report's publication.