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Colo. adds $3 million to AIDS drug program
  The Denver Post
July 16, 2004 Friday
Karen Auge Denver Post Staff Writer
--Funds help poor, uninsured get costly medications
--The money, from the state's tobacco settlement, is a one-time lift to an underfunded program.
Colorado, which has a dismal record on providing life-saving AIDS drugs to uninsured people, has added nearly $3 million to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program - enough to provide drugs to all 315 people now on a waiting list to get the medications.
ADAP, funded by federal and state governments, was created to help low-income and uninsured people with HIV/AIDS get the expensive medications that can save and extend lives.
But in Colorado, the program got hit by budget cuts in recent years as state legislators wrestled with record budget deficits.
As a result, the state became second only to Alabama in the number of people languishing on an ever-growing waiting list for the AIDS-drug program.
Earlier this year, state officials maintained that everyone on the waiting list had found some temporary way to get their medications.
Douglas H. Benevento, the state health department's executive director, said his agency and Gov. Bill Owens' office worked hard to find money so the state could deliver "life-saving medications to the people who need them."
"There shouldn't be a waiting list for this kind of program," Benevento said.
In addition, the state will once again provide medications that fight infections that often plague people with HIV/AIDS. Last year, about 20 such drugs were scratched from the Colorado ADAP to save money.
Cutting those drugs brought Colorado another dubious distinction.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the state paid for 18 varieties of AIDS drugs - the lowest number of any state. New York, which had the biggest list, paid for 474 different medications in 2003, the survey found.
Scott Barnette, director of the state ADAP, said his office is contacting all 315 HIV/AIDS patients on the list to let them know their wait is over.
Barnette said the additional money - the exact amount is $2,991,477, from the state's tobacco settlement - is a one-time contribution. Funding for ADAP, he said, "will be revisited by the state legislature each year."
When everyone on the waiting list begins getting medications, the total number of people participating in Colorado's ADAP will be more than 1,000, Barnette said.
But the fix will likely be only temporary.
"About 20 to 25 people apply each month," for the program, Barnette said.
He said he isn't sure why the number of people needing help is going up so quickly.
But ``primarily it's that more people have become unemployed and lose their health insurance,'' he said.
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