Policy & Politics
South Carolina: HIV Patients Fear Loss of Vital Drugs
March 23, 2011
Some 7,400 South Carolinians are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, according to Kaiser Family Foundation figures, and 2,262 people rely on the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program to access their medications. But as lawmakers struggle to balance a budget with a $700 million shortfall, there is little support for adding funds to eliminate ADAP's waiting list.
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, 527 state residents, who earn less than three times the federal poverty level but do not qualify for Medicaid, are now on that list. CDC data show that 72.3 percent of HIV-positive South Carolinians are African-American.
South Carolina's ADAP currently is funded with $16.8 million from the federal government and $1.9 million from the state. In 2008 and 2009, a one-time infusion of $2.4 million in state money reduced the waiting list. It has grown again, however, since 2010, when the Legislature cut the state's ADAP contribution by 60 percent.
In a report on expanding HIV/AIDS services, Harvard University's Health Law and Policy Clinic recommended that South Carolina apply for a waiver to permit Medicaid coverage of people with HIV. So far, the state has not taken that step.
"I think we have an obligation to not have these medicines be so cost-prohibitive that people are dying because they are poor," said Julia Craft, a nurse who lives in Lexington County. "It's not a problem that's exclusive to South Carolina."
Meanwhile, "The disease is spreading, spreading, spreading," said Craft, who has cared for eight patients who died of AIDS. She worries that, in part because of Magic Johnson's successful response to treatment, "no one's afraid of this disease" these days.
The State (Columbia, S.C.)
03.20.2011; John O'Connor
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