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  Southern AIDS Coalition
Media Contact: Mary Ann T. Green: Mgreen@floridaaidsaction.org / 813-974-4892
For Immediate Release: 9/4/03
Washington, DC - The Southern AIDS Coalition responded with outrage as news spread that two West Virginia HIV/AIDS patients died while waiting to access the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).
According to Dr. Faisal Khan, Director of West Virginia's HIV/AIDS/STD program, "It is a crisis that will continue. The state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program stopped taking new patients almost seven months ago because the federal funding isn't enough to cover the costs of their drugs."
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program provides low-income, underinsured and uninsured persons living with HIV/AIDS access to life saving medications. Currently, the program provides HIV/AIDS related medicine to more than 90,000 individuals in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, while numbers of individuals accessing ADAP continues to rise, the program itself is not receiving the federal funding needed to keep pace with the epidemic. The result is waiting lists, enrollment caps and other ADAP restrictions across the nation.
In fact, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors' (NASTAD) recently released "ADAP Watch" report reveals that 726 individuals across the U.S. are currently on an ADAP waiting list and more than 13 states have already capped enrollment.
"This is the richest and most powerful nation in human history," notes Dr. Gene Copello, Executive Director of Florida AIDS Action and Co-Chair of the Southern AIDS Coalition. "The very thought that people died because they couldn't access life saving medications due to the ADAP crisis is horrific. How can this happen in America?"
According to AIDS policy experts, ADAP will require an additional $214 million in new federal funds for 2004, but the bill under consideration by the Senate provides only a $24.7 million increase for ADAP.
"States with limited resources for HIV care have been forced to make difficult decisions - often limiting access to life-saving medications. As long as individuals are denied access to care due to a system of inadequate funding, we will be forced to create a type of lottery system where if you are not chosen, you loose - with you life," notes Noel Twilbeck, Executive Director NO/AIDS Task Force and a member of the Southern AIDS Coalition Steering Committee.
An amendment allowing for full funding of ADAP is being advocated by AIDS activists across the nation since without these funds, the ADAP program will face a major shortfall in 2004, possibly adding hundreds if not thousands of people to the waiting list.
"We have lost people to HIV before, but the deaths in West Virginia are the kind that can't be anticipated," explains Patrick Lee with the North Carolina Council for Positive Living and another member of the Southern AIDS Coalition Steering Committee. "America spends billions on a war that destroys life and we have to beg our government to spend money on medications that save life. This is why we do the work that we do."
The Southern AIDS Coalition is an advocacy network of 14 southern states and the District of Columbia created to address the unique aspects of fighting AIDS and STDs in the southern region of the United States. To learn more about the Southern AIDS Coalition please contact us on the web at www.southernaidscoalition.org
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