In spite of a budget crisis that could leave Alabama's 2004 budget $500 million short, HIV/AIDS advocates from across the state will petition lawmakers Thursday for continued financial support of the Alabama AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAP provides medication for HIV/AIDS patients unable to afford the annual costs of medication, which can be $10,500-$15,000. Some 76 of the more than 13,000 state residents with HIV are on the waiting list for the ADAP program.

Thursday's Consumer Media Day -- which begins with the presentation of the annual Governor's Commission on HIV/AIDS report -- allows advocates to personally interact with legislators and specifically lobby for ADAP funds. Although a state match is no longer required for the state to receive its federal funding, advocates are pushing for $3 million in level state funding to prevent a waiting list increase. A state match is not required because the state's total 13,176 HIV/AIDS cases represent less than 1 percent of cases nationwide, according to James Waid, executive director of Montgomery AIDS Outreach.

Waid acknowledges that the current budget crunch gives legislators little latitude in determining how to fund programs. "I think there are many, many deserving programs in the state of Alabama, but I, of course, am closest to the AIDS arena and simply can't imagine denying people life-sustaining drugs," said Waid.

The grassroots effort for ADAP funding has had a successful track record in past years. The coalition, which includes AIDS Alabama in Birmingham and the Mobile AIDS Support Center, lobbied the Legislature for almost $2 million in 2001, which was raised to nearly $3 million last year. Ranier DeRamus, case manager for Lighthouse Counseling Center in Montgomery, said about 50 advocates from the local Montgomery area alone have committed to the effort. Said DeRamus, "... We want to make certain by the day's end that [the legislators] are aware of not only the number of people across Alabama in need of medications, but that they are fully aware it is their constituents that are in need of these medications."

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