What's New in HIV/AIDS Policy?
Excerpts From Hotline Memos of October, 2000
from the Information Department of Project Inform
As of November 1st, 2000, the California HIV Diagnostic Assay Program will be providing access to HIV Viral Load Testing and HIV Resistance Testing. Both testing services will be available to people who meet AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) eligibility criteria, have no other insurance coverage for the tests and are accessing care in a participating Local Health Jurisdiction (LHJ). People do not have to participate in ADAP in order to get reimbursement, but they do have to sign up with the LHJ. To find out how to apply, people should contact the HIV/AIDS program of their local health department. If you experience a problem, call Project Inform's Hotline and ask for Freddie Oaks.
Project Inform was the lead advocacy group working with the California State Office of AIDS to make this program possible. The Information and Advocacy department at PI began to predict the growing utility of resistance testing in the management of HIV disease at least a year before it was included in the Federal Guidelines for the Standard of HIV Care. This prediction allowed the Policy department to partner with the State Office of AIDS, well in advance of the inclusion of resistance testing in the guidelines, to ensure that low income Californians who are not otherwise insured could get coverage for the tests. The program may be a model for other states in providing more access to resistance testing. Some states have already contacted the California State Office of AIDS and Project Inform to discuss setting up a similar program.
Congress decided to recess for the November elections before negotiating a final Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2001 (October 1, 2000 to September 30,2001). Within this bill is funding for HIV/AIDS care/treatment, prevention and research programs. Because the Fiscal Year has already started, Congress has approved a "continuing resolution" which funds programs at current levels until a final bill can be approved.
Congress will reconvene on November 14 after the elections to continue its work on final bills, including the appropriations bill. HIV/AIDS advocates are very concerned about this delay. Until a final bill can be passed, HIV/AIDS programs will not receive the increases they need to maintain adequate levels of service. In addition, the uncertainty around potential increases will make it difficult for planning programs and services.
Perhaps more concerning is the potential for this issue to become a victim of post-election politics. Depending on the outcome of the elections, Congress might continue to delay making final decisions until after the new Administration takes over in January. Continued delays in securing increases could cause major problems for many crucial HIV/AIDS programs.
Even before Congress recessed, the funding increases for all HIV/AIDS programs being discussed were far below those needed to provide adequate services to people living with and at risk for HIV. Advocates for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) are particularly concerned about the inadequate funding levels being discussed for that program. ADAP provides HIV/AIDS treatments to under- or uninsured low income individuals who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them. Experts have indicated that a $130 million increase over last year's funding is needed to maintain the current level of service, but Congress is discussing increases far below that amount.
Your help is needed to make sure that Congress acts quickly on business that should have been completed by now! Please take a few minutes to contact your elected representatives and ask them to do everything in their power to pass a final appropriations bill quickly with the highest possible increases for HIV/AIDS programs.
Call or e-mail your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators today with the following message:
You can reach your representatives through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also find Web sites with contact information for your Representative at www.house.gov and your Senators at www.senate.gov.
This article was provided by Project Inform. It is a part of the publication What's New. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.