As of Nov. 24, 95 Tennesseans living with HIV were on a waiting list for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. More people amid the swelling ranks of the unemployed and the uninsured are seeking ADAP's help, officials said. Tennessee joins at least eight other states with ADAP wait lists.
"Medications for the treatment of HIV are not inexpensive, and so for [patients], this is a very big deal," said Dr. Veronica Gunn, chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health.
The state will ask for federal supplementary funds to cope with the strong ADAP demand. However, state officials cannot predict how long it will take before patients on the waiting list receive treatment.
If more funding becomes available or some current clients leave the program, ADAP benefits will be extended to new patients in the order they were placed on the program's wait list. Pregnant women and infants can access temporary emergency services. In the interim, medical care managers are connecting wait-listed patients with charity programs run by AIDS drug manufacturers.
"Most, if not all, pharmaceutical manufacturers have programs that provide medications at greatly reduced costs to individuals who have no other means of receiving medication," Gunn said.
Finding out that one could not access treatment "because you were number 57 in line" would be "devastating," said Kim Daugherty, executive director of the AIDS advocacy group Friends for Life.
The annual number of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in Tennessee hit 1,071 in 2008 -- an 11 percent increase from 2003.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.