April 14, 2011
As the Georgia General Assembly's session concludes this week, the House's proposed $600,000 cut to the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program was averted. However, Senate-House budget negotiators did cut ADAP by $100,000 for the fiscal year beginning in July -- one of many reductions in the $18.3 billion budget.
Budget constraints led ADAP to start a waiting list, which stood at 1,328 Georgians as of April 7, according to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors. Advocates were asking legislators for a $5 million state increase for ADAP in order to secure an additional $10 million in federal ADAP funds.
"I'm certainly disappointed that we did not get the increase that we needed from the state to address the issue with the waiting list," said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. "Anytime that you are working in a budget environment and they have to cut billions of dollars, to be able to retain your funding has to be considered a success, even though we are concerned about the pace that the waiting list is growing."
In early December, Graham and other advocates lobbied Georgia lawmakers to help ADAP when its waiting list was at 800 people. The list grew by more than 300 between early March and early April. With state funding of nearly $12.5 million, Georgia's ADAP serves about 4,300 low-income people with HIV/AIDS.
Advocates are hoping for relief from the federal government. In the April 8 negotiations that cut $39 billion from the federal budget, ADAP received $25 million in additional funds to be divided among the 50 states. As of April 7, 7,900 people in 11 states were on ADAP waiting lists.