January 16, 2012
As goes Ohio, so could the nation. The Ohio Health Department is putting up a strong fight to lower the federal poverty limit from its height of 500% in July 2010, lowered to 300% at that time, to now have the ability to implement a potential income eligibility change to as low as 100% FPL at anytime with no notice to anyone with a stroke of pen. If that rule had gone into effect, it would mean in order to qualify for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program a single individual cannot make more than $10,890 a year. Further, ODH could implement medical criteria one must also meet. Those given the highest priority will be PLWHA with CD4 counts lower than 201. The medical criteria make no mention of an important aspect of HIV care: viral load.
Back in December 2011, three Ohio HIV-positive advocates with the assistance of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation won an injunction to these proposed rule changes in the Franklin County, Ohio Court of Common Pleas, resetting the FPL to 300%. ODH had proposed one set of rules, had a hearing, and then changed the rules to the above without telling anyone. The judge had ordered ODH to go back to the drawing board ... and they did. The end result is the terrible rules listed above.
If the Ohio Health Department gets their way and decides to lower the income limit to 100% FPL, nearly 2,600 of Ohio's PLWHA will be forced off of ADAP (half of the program), and countless others who will become newly infected will have no access to the medicine they need. PLWHA no matter what their socioeconomic background should be privy to medicine that will keep them alive and healthy.
Is this not the reason behind these medications? With today's medicine PLWHA can lead long, productive lives; they are at less risk of developing an opportunistic infection, and in 2011 a ground-breaking study came out that stated those on antiretroviral therapy are 96 percent less likely to pass the virus to their partner.
We must not let Ohio implement these rules on the backs of the poor and vulnerable, especially those living with a potentially life-threatening disease such as HIV/AIDS. After 30 years of this epidemic, we must continue in our efforts to fight for all PLWHA!
How you can help:
Anyone from around the United States can send an email to HCS@odh.ohio.gov emphasizing your concern of these proposed changes. In the subject line use: Rule 3701-44-03.