AIDS Action Supports Standard Of Care Guidelines, Stresses Access To AIDS Drugs For All PWAS
Increased Federal Commitment Needed On Access To Care Issues
June 18, 1997
Contact: José Zuniga
(202) 986-1300, Ext. 3042
WASHINGTON, DC -- AIDS Action, the nation's foremost AIDS advocacy organization, today announced its unequivocal support for the standard of AIDS care guidelines to be released tomorrow at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) press conference. AIDS Action stressed, however, that for the guidelines to be meaningful there needs to be an increased federal commitment to getting AIDS drug therapies into the hands of all Americans living with HIV and AIDS. Specifically, AIDS Action called for the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to people in early stages of HIV infection, and for increased funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and for all other Ryan White CARE Act programs.
"We now have guidelines instructing physicians on how best to use the promising AIDS drug therapies that have so dramatically improved the lives of so many Americans affected by HIV and AIDS," said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action's executive director. "AIDS Action calls on the federal government to ensure that the new hope that combination therapies with protease inhibitors represent -- a hope these guidelines authenticate -- can touch the life of every American living with HIV and AIDS."
AIDS Action originally proposed its Medicaid expansion initiative over three months ago to Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials, citing current Medicaid eligibility criteria as contradictory to AIDS clinical evidence and care standards which call for early treatment of HIV disease. While over 53 percent of all Americans with AIDS rely on Medicaid for access to health care, many low-income people with HIV are denied that access. People with HIV are ineligible for Medicaid unless the Social Security Administration declares them disabled -- which usually follows diagnosis with full-blown AIDS. Vice President Gore endorsed AIDS Action's Medicaid initiative in April and called on HCFA to report on the feasibility of a Medicaid expansion demonstration project within 30 days. That report has yet to be released.
State ADAP programs are facing a $132 million budget shortfall this year, which has forced many states to limit their drug formularies or deny coverage for some people. In Mississippi, for example, 640 people with AIDS -- or 80 percent of the Mississippi ADAPs enrollees -- were dropped from ADAP earlier this month. AIDS Action has been fighting to get Congress to appropriate emergency funding for beleaguered ADAPs. An attempt earlier this month to attach ADAP supplemental funding to a disaster relief bill was defeated after the Clinton administration failed to request the additional funding citing no evidence that an ADAP budget crisis exists.
"The ADAP budget crisis directly threatens thousands of people with AIDS across the country. At a moment's notice, these individuals may be unable to access the treatments they require to remain alive and healthy," Zingale said. "We cannot afford the human toll that would be exacted by turning back the clock on progress. These guidelines represent progress. Now we must make progress on resolving the inequities that exist in access to life-prolonging drugs for people with HIV and AIDS."
The new standard of AIDS care guidelines were developed by the Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV Infection convened by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The distinguished panel of scientists and HIV/AIDS treatment experts included AIDS Action Legislative Representative Gary Rose, and several representatives of AIDS Action community-based member organizations, among them Spencer Cox and Mark Harrington of the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and Celia Maxwell of the AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETCs).
AIDS Action is the nation's foremost AIDS advocacy organization, representing all Americans affected by HIV and AIDS and over 1,400 community-based organizations that serve them.
This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.