In South Carolina, the Wait for Help Fighting AIDS Tops Nation
February 21, 2007
The waiting list of clients eligible for South Carolina's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has grown to 432 people and may reach 600 by July, according to Lynda Kettinger, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control's STD/HIV Division director. The agency tries to channel wait-listed patients through charitable AIDS drug programs, but the process is burdensome and the programs are temporary.
Toward the goal of eliminating the waiting list, advocates and some lawmakers are calling for $5 million in additional state funds for ADAP and $3 million for physician care. They argue this cost is less than the state would pay if it fails to help ADAP clients on the waiting list, since emergency medical visits and lost work time would cost the state more.
More than 15,000 South Carolinians have HIV/AIDS, and about 800 more are newly diagnosed each year. About 75 percent of state cases are African Americans.
Earlier diagnosis and treatment are necessary to fight the disease, said Bambi Gaddist, executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. "We can no longer act like this is not happening," she said. "We are all paying the price. You may not be African American or living in poverty, but you are paying."
"We're in the Bible Belt," said state Rep. Joe Neal (D-Richland and Sumter counties), who is a pastor. "Many legislators are unfamiliar with this disease in their own districts," he said. "There's a tendency to say, 'These people brought it on themselves.' And it's seen in many quarters as an African-American problem, and I don't think the connections have been made as to what that reality means in South Carolina's future."
Rep. Dan Cooper, the Republican chairperson of the House budget-writing committee, said legislators will likely fund at least part of the $8 million request.
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