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ADAP in South Carolina: Call for $3 Million Emergency Funds
 
 
  Death of AIDS patient stirs group to hold rally
 
Organization seeks more funds after person died waiting for state assistance

 
By CZERNE M. REID
http://www.thestate.com
South Carolina's Home Page
 
The death of a fourth person who was awaiting help from the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program has prompted a rally this morning ahead of today's meeting of the State Budget and Control Board.
 
The South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS, an organization made up largely of people living with HIV/AIDS, is calling for $3 million in emergency funds to end the drug assistance program's waiting list, which had 324 people as of Nov. 29. Other local groups also are working to address the problem.
 
"As people living with this virus ... we have a personal interest. We want the list to end because it's our friends and families that are dying," said Karen Bates, the group's co-chairwoman. "Every time we hear about another person being added to the waiting list or another person dying, we know that 'this could be me tomorrow.'"
 
Bates hopes to speak at today's meeting. But if public comments aren't allowed, she and the others will sit and listen.
 
"I would consider it an even greater success if we would get a commitment from the Budget and Control Board members - particularly the governor - that they would make a request to the General Assembly for this emergency funding." Bates said. "Even getting them talking about it ... I would consider a small success."
 
Today's rally is the group's second in three days. It held a Sunday morning gathering of 15 people in front of the Governor's Mansion.
 
While the South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS organizes protests, another local organization is tackling the same issues from a different angle.
 
The South Carolina HIV/AIDS Care Crisis Task force, which is made up of community groups, health officials, health care providers and people living with HIV/AIDS, is gearing up to talk individually to lawmakers in February about immediate and longer-term state funding for the drug assistance program.
 
DHEC officials say $8 million a year is needed from the state to meet the program's demands.
 
To make their case, advocates will present information on the negative economic impact that HIV/AIDS has on the state, and the benefits of investing in prevention and early treatment.
 
"We have faith in (the lawmakers)," said Bambi Gaddist, a member of the task force, and executive director of the S.C. HIV/AIDS Council. "I just choose to believe that they have the vision, insight and commitment to try to change the course that we're on before it bankrupts us."
 
Although the various advocacy groups differ in methods used, they agree on the outcome.
 
"I feel that two different approaches are needed," Gaddist said. "We cannot afford to depend on one type of advocacy effort over another. We have to make sure that we have covered all our bases."
 
 
 
 
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