October 31, 2011
Some of the 1,427 low-income patients on a waiting list for Georgia's AIDS Drug Assistance Program will gain access to treatment through a $3 million infusion of federal funding this year. The additional funding, four times the amount Georgia received last year, mirrors the national growth of state ADAP waiting lists.
"This really is a crisis facing the HIV community," said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an LGBT advocacy group. The significant jump in state ADAP applicants stems from the bad economy as well as efforts to test more people and secure earlier treatment for those infected, he said.
A waiting list allows Georgia to track ongoing ADAP needs, which can be cited when seeking federal funds, said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, head of the state Department of Public Health (DPH). Enacted last year in July, Georgia's ADAP waiting list is the nation's second-largest after Florida's, which stood at 3,286 people as of Oct. 27, according to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors. Twelve states have such lists, which include the names of 6,689 patients.
Despite the additional $3 million, DPH estimates it would cost nearly $15.5 million to move all patients off the list. Ninety-nine percent of Georgia's wait-listed patients are receiving treatment through drug firms' charitable patient-assistance programs, Fitzgerald said. Georgia ADAP's fiscal 2012 budget is $53.5 million, of which roughly 30 percent comes from the state. Treatment for each patient costs ADAP $10,800 annually.
Georgia needs to stretch its ADAP dollars, such as by using them to pay out-of-pocket costs for patients who qualify for Medicare Part D, Graham suggested. Earlier this year, the state launched a pilot to move people with pre-existing conditions to an insurance plan created by federal health care reform.