The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), part of the Ryan White program, provides prescription assistance to low-income individuals living with HIV. ADAP helps over 165,000 HIV positive Americans maintain their health by providing access to life-prolonging drugs.
ADAP is now in the most serious crisis since its inception, with over 6,000 individuals on waiting lists for their life-saving medications in 10 states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming. Many more states have been forced to implement cost-containment measures that further restrict treatment access. While the crisis varies state to state, federal and state funding has not kept up with the financial needs of the program. In addition, the economic environment has caused unusually high unemployment. Many people have lost their health insurance and are forced to rely on ADAP and other public health programs.
In response to the government's inadequate response to this crisis, advocates from across the country are working tirelessly at the state and federal levels to increase funding and avoid more cuts. Two innovative actions have helped to alleviate the crisis. The first is the development of the Welvista program. The second is the recent successful advocacy effort to ensure treatment access for those who will be removed from Florida's ADAP for a two-month period.
Last year, advocates from the Fair Pricing Coalition (FPC), co-founded by Project Inform, worked with the Heinz Family Foundation, Welvista and the pharmaceutical industry to develop a program to ensure that people on ADAP waiting lists would automatically qualify to get their HIV meds from a central location rather than having to apply to each company patient assistance program separately. This new program is run by Welvista, a non-profit mail-order pharmacy based in South Carolina. While this program allows people to easily access some meds, it falls far short of filling the ADAP funding gaps left by federal and state governments.
Most recently, the FPC also worked with the state of Florida, Welvista and industry to avoid a major crisis in that state that would have doubled the overall number of people affected by the ADAP crisis. Florida planned on removing 6,500 people from it's ADAP for a two-month period, due to a program funding shortfall. Advocates negotiated a temporary program through Welvista to provide medicines to all 6,500 Floridians affected. The process aims to be seamless for recipients, with all information transferred from Florida's ADAP to Welvista. Local social workers will be trained in how to transition clients to Welvista and then back onto Florida's ADAP in April when it expects to receive the necessary federal funding.
Project Inform continues to prioritize ADAP advocacy at the national and California state levels so that people with HIV/AIDS have stable access to treatment as we move towards health care reform implementation. As a co-founder of the grassroots Save America's ADAPs, a national citizen response to the ADAP crisis, we also mobilize constituents to tell their elected officials to fully fund America's ADAPs. For more information on what you can do to help solve the ADAP crisis, contact Michael Friedman.