These numbers alone prove how important our ADAP program is in terms of protecting health and saving lives. By now, most people within the HIV community understand this. However, ADAP constantly teeters on the brink of financial crisis. It's very difficult to get decisionmakers to focus far enough in advance to avoid problems.
Take, for instance, the topic of Fuzeon® and ADAP. When Fuzeon was first approved in March of 2003, Georgia was not prepared for the added expense of this medication. Therefore, the state initiated a waiting list for it.
The board of Georgia's Department of Human Resources knew this was a problem, but decided not to ask the Governor to put additional funds for Fuzeon in his budget request. By the time the legislature met in January, that waiting list had grown to almost 40 people. It should be noted that Fuzeon is an important therapeutic option for those who have shown resistance to most other medications.
Thanks to the hard work of people around the state, an additional $500,000 was allocated by the Legislature to eliminate the Fuzeon waiting list. Those funds were to cover 39 people and become available on July 1. By that point, the waiting list had grown to over 60 people. Even with these new funds, there will remain a waiting list of between 20-40 people for the next year when the next state budget starts.
In fact, we anticipate needing an additional $2.6 million in the state ADAP budget for the 2007 state fiscal year to keep the program open without a waiting list. This is the time of year that the board at DHR finalizes their requests and submits them to the Governor's office. If you'd like to lend your support for increased ADAP funding, please send a letter to the Governor at:
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Office of the Governor
111 State Capitol SW
Atlanta GA 30334-0900
It is important that everyone who has problems or concerns with the new Medicare Prescription Drug benefit share your stories and thoughts with your member of Congress. If you remember, this legislation was passed in the fall of 2003 on the recommendation of the White House and Congressional leaders with very little input from Congress as a whole. Advocates have been urging Congress for months to pass new legislation to amend the Prescription Drug benefit to make it easier on middle-income folks earning between $14,355 and $30,000 a year. Individuals making less than this can qualify for the low-income subsidy.
However, Congress has been reluctant to consider any new legislation until the program rolls out starting on January 1, 2006. This is why staying in contact with your representative and senators is so important. Ideally, Congress would act this fall to issue a temporary stop-gap measure that would allow individuals on Medicare who also receive benefits through either Medicaid or ADAP to keep their current coverage through the anticipated six-month transitional period, rather than losing coverage overnight. If Congress fails to enact such legislation this fall, then they must be prepared to act quickly after the first of the year if major service disruptions occur.
You can find contact information by visiting the AIDS Survival Project Web site at www.aidssurvivalproject.org.
For those of you wishing to join the caravan to travel from Georgia to D.C., you will need to contact me directly at JGraham@aidssurvivalproject.org. Please note that each individual traveling on the caravan will be responsible for raising $500 towards the cost of the caravan. Donations may be secured through friends and local businesses. A limited number of scholarships will be available through AIDS Survival Project, with preference being given to those people who have actively worked to raise funds or organize local events.
For others wishing to participate in the D.C. days of action and awareness, you'll want to check the campaign Web sites for the latest schedule updates. You do not have to join a caravan to participate in the D.C. days of action and awareness between October 8 and 12. The D.C. events will kick off around noon on Saturday, October 8, with a welcome celebration lasting most of the afternoon. Various events from prayer breakfasts to Congressional visits to affinity group demonstrations will then take place from the 9th through the 11th. Please note that if you are unable to travel with the caravan, you will need to make your own arrangements for travel and lodging. Low-cost community lodging should be available, but details have not yet been released.