March 20, 2013
Washington, D.C. -- In an unprecedented action by the federal government, the spending bill about to be passed by the United States Senate does not include funding needed to continue lifesaving medications to nearly 8,000 low-income people with HIV. As part of the bill that will fund the federal government through the end of September, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have failed to continue $35 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). The spending bill also failed to continue $10 million for clinical medical care provided through Part C of the Ryan White Program.
"While we have faced severe waiting lists for people wanting to take medications in the past," said Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, "failure to provide funding for existing patients is a dangerous unprecedented action by the U.S government." Once a patient begins antiretroviral treatment, the drugs must be taken every day without interruption or the person can quickly become ill. Resistance to medications can occur, even with a single missed dose, leading to serious health complications and higher health costs.
President Obama increased funding for ADAP on World AIDS Day, 2011 in response to the growing wait lists and at the urging of several Members of Congress. Earlier House and Senate versions of the FY13 spending bills continued this money, and even included significant increases to address the eight percent growth in clients ADAP experienced last year.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin attempted to address the ADAP funding cut with an amendment that would have resolved this issue, among other things. Unfortunately, it failed on a party-line vote on the Senate floor. Without the $35 million continuation in ADAP funding, states such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee and several others will likely stop providing medications to many ADAP clients.
"We hope that before the bill is finalized and sent to the President, Congress will see fit to find a way to continue this funding to avoid any interruptions in lifesaving care and treatment With sequestration and discussion of further budget cuts, continuation of this funding is an absolute necessity," concluded Schmid.