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Alabama's AIDS Drug Assistance Program Suffers Cut as Waiting List Grows

March 19, 2004

Alabama's HIV Commission is asking the state Legislature to allocate $5 million, up from $1.76 million, for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) to help treat the more than 300 mostly minority patients who are on its waiting list. The request by the commission's chair, Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville), was made Thursday and is supported by the legislative Black Caucus, which is making the funding issue a priority this session.

Thirty to 40 new HIV/AIDS patients are added to the waiting list -- already the nation's longest -- every month, and the commission anticipates the list will include more than 500 patients by next fiscal year.

In the last fiscal year, the Legislature cut ADAP funding from $2.9 million to $1.76 million. The federal Ryan White CARE Act provides $9 million for Alabama's ADAP, bringing the state's AIDS programs up to a total of $13 million annually. But in order to maintain federal support, each year the state has to prove that it spent as much on HIV programs as the preceding year. Last year, Alabama documented money it spent on prison treatments and so remained eligible to receive federal funding despite the cutback.

Another year of cuts to HIV/AIDS programs could jeopardize federal funding and ultimately eliminate ADAP, said Hall. And while Hall said that receiving $5 million is unlikely during Alabama's budget crunch, ADAP could cope if last year's funding was restored to $2.9 million.

Alabama's ADAP provides HIV/AIDS treatment to 1,342 low-income HIV patients who have no insurance at a cost of about $10,500 annually. Each untreated patient would cost the state $100,000 each year, according to an Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield estimate. Though blacks comprise only one-quarter of Alabama's population, 70 percent of the state's estimated 12,000 HIV cases are black.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
03.18.04; Samira Jafari

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