Unfortunately in the world of politics, you're never as strong as you think you are (or as weak as you fear). Recent staff changes at the Department of Human Resources have left us unsure of the commitment this department has to ADAP. Many urgent health care needs face the state, and AIDS is seen by many people as yesterday's issue. Georgia remains one of the few states in the country with a waiting list for services under ADAP, and the strong leadership needed to advocate for the increases needed to make this program work for all who need it is still lacking. If we have any hope of easing the burden on this program, we must advocate for our own best interest by contacting the Governor and the leadership of the state legislature.
As of early September, nearly 600 people were on the waiting list for ADAP. While this is a much better position than what we saw just one year ago, it still means that too many people are not guaranteed access to the medications that may save their lives. What's more, our projection that the waiting list will grow to 700 people by the start of the next fiscal year is likely conservative. Because so many people are forced to wait to receive medications, their regimens are often more complicated and costly than if they had been able to access proper drugs early on. We need the state of Georgia to increase its funding by $8.6 million in the upcoming fiscal year, or we will continue to fall further and further behind in our battle against HIV.
I recently participated in an advocacy training sponsored by Project Inform. One of the women in the audience expressed her frustration by explaining, "I spend all my time looking up treatment information and knowing which is the best clinic to go to. I know the cure is out there, and I intend to live to see it. It's a full time job just to stay alive, and now you're telling me I need to find time to write letters and make phone calls about funding too?!"
This woman's frustration and comments are shared by many people facing the challenges of HIV. It is a full time job just to stay alive, but take just a moment to think about what she said. The clinics and the medications play a major role in keeping her alive. Unfortunately, for most people living with HIV, access to those clinics and medications are guaranteed through government funding. So many people will spend hours each week on the Internet researching their treatment options, but can't be bothered to take half an hour a month to write a letter or two to keep the clinics open and the medications available.
If you were on the ADAP waiting list, would you be willing to write one letter a month to get access to basic medical therapies? Last year the Governor's office requested an increase of $1.853 million in the state budget. If he received 100 letters on this topic, that means that each letter written was worth about $18,530! This year there are 600 people on the waiting list, if we could get everyone to write a letter we'd be well on our way to the $8.6 million we need to eliminate that waiting list. Think about it, over 3,800 people read Survival News each month; if only two of every ten people reading about the ADAP crisis actually took a half an hour to copy the letter below, the Governor's office would be so inundated with letters that ADAP funding would become one of his top priorities.
Yes, there is a lot of work that goes into living with the challenges of HIV. Writing letters to politicians may not seem like the most exciting way to spend your time, but how much fun is a doctor's waiting room or watching what and when you eat? It's just another thing you need to do to stay alive.
The longer you wait to write a letter, the more letters will need to be written to have an impact. Today is the best day to write a letter to the Governor. The budget is entering its final phases, but it's not too late to make a difference. Interest generated in October and November will pay off big come January. What's more, now is also the time to write a letter to one of the key policy makers in the legislature as well. Some of the other folks who need to hear about your concerns around ADAP funding are Senator George Hooks, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Representative Terry Coleman, Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House. Their addresses can be found, along with the sample letter below.
Key to making all of our legislative advocacy efforts work is having people in the office willing to organize mass mailings, send out notices on strategy meetings, and assist me in coordinating the AIDS Awareness Day and AIDS Lobby Day at the capitol. Much of this work has been coordinated by student interns, but this year I'd like to expand that opportunity to others. If you can work at least one day a week from mid-November through the first of March, I can use your assistance on our ADAP campaign. There's always plenty to do, so just let me know if you'd like to become a little more involved in this work.
The Honorable Roy Barnes
Governor, State of Georgia
Room 245, State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Dear Governor Barnes:
As a person whose life has been affected by the AIDS epidemic, I am writing to urge you to seek the greatest possible increase in funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) in the upcoming state budget. In early September, nearly 600 people were on the ADAP waiting list. Current projections estimate that the waiting list will grow to at least 700 people by the start of the next fiscal year. A minimum of $8.6 million is needed to ensure these people have guaranteed access to basic HIV medications.
The ADAP program provides access for people with no other resources, to medications which prolong and enhance the quality of lives.
(GIVE A PERSONAL EXAMPLE OF HOW COMBINATION THERAPY HAS IMPACTED YOUR LIFE, OR THE LIFE OF SOMEONE CLOSE TO YOU -- IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY ON THE ADAP WAITING LIST, BE SURE TO MENTION THAT.)
Each day that goes by without medications means a day that their health deteriorates even further. Each person on that waiting list is someone's child, someone's friend, husband, wife or parent...not just a statistic. HIV has been documented in every district in this state. The fastest-growing groups in the epidemic are women, heterosexuals and adolescents. Of current cases, 46% of women and 50% of children and teens with AIDS live outside metro-Atlanta. In states where drugs are accessible, the infection rate among newborns has dropped by two-thirds, the death rate among adults has dropped by more than 67%, and hospitalizations decreased by 300%. The Veteran's Administration system saved $18 million dollars in 1997 by increasing access to these medications.
Georgia is eighth in the nation in reported AIDS cases. Without increased support for this program, people will be without medications, people will be without hope. For the past two budget cycles, the waiting list has continued to grow at a tremendous rate. We cannot afford to wait to increase funding for this program.
(YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS)
Also Send Letters to:
Senator George Hooks, Chair Representative Senate Appropriations Committee
P.O. Box 928
Americus, GA 31709 Eastman, GA 31023
Terry Coleman, Chair Representative House Appropriations Committee
P.O. Box 157
Americus, GA 31709 Eastman, GA 31023