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National News

Texas: AIDS Activists to Protest Changes

January 14, 2003

Busloads of Houston AIDS activists head for Austin this week as Texas health officials decide on potential cuts to the Texas HIV Medication Program, the primary source for HIV medications for thousands of Texans. The Texas Department of Health has projected a $7 million budget shortfall for the program in fiscal 2003, which began Sept. 1. TDH proposes reducing financial eligibility criteria down from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 140 percent.

By law, THMP must balance its budget or face elimination, said activists, who want health officials to wait and see what funding federal and state lawmakers allot before cutting back the number of patients eligible for assistance.

"This is the last time there will be a chance for the board to hear our voices," said Tracy Wilson, community coordinator of AIDS Coalition of Texas Now! (ACT Now!) Houston. "We will have buses going to the hearing. We will provide free transportation to get people to this very important meeting so our voices can be heard."

The board hearing on the proposed changes is Thursday, Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Moreton Building, Room M-739, at TDH headquarters, 11 West 49th St., in Austin.

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Current patients applying for THMP funds can have an income of $17,720 and deduct the drugs' retail costs from that income, called a "spend down" measure. That adjusted gross income is used to determine if a person can receive state assistance. Under proposed changes, patients' income could be $12,404, with no "spend down" adjustment, said Wilson.

The state expects a $37 million budget shortfall over the next few years if funding remains the same. In 2001, THMP served 11,138 people at a $51 million cost. In fiscal 2003, officials expect to serve 10,311 people at a $62 million cost. More than 215 new clients are joining THMP each month, said Wilson. THMP spends $6 million each month -- or $200,000 daily -- for medications. If approved, the requirements would be implemented for new clients in 30 days. Current clients would have six months to reapply or find other assistance. More than 1,000 Houstonians would lose their assistance under proposed income restrictions.

Back to other CDC news for January 14, 2003

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Adapted from:
Houston Voice
01.10.03; Penny Weaver



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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