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320 Ohioans lose aid for HIV drugs (cut from ADAP)
 
 
  Friday, July 2, 2010 02:51 AM
By Misti Crane
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
 
The Ohio Department of Health cut 320 people from HIV-medication assistance, instituted a waiting list and made other cuts yesterday to a program that serves about 5,000 people who have the virus.
 
The department projected a deficit of $16.4million by the end of the program's fiscal year on March 31, and it had to slash services, said Jay Carey, management analyst for the state's Ryan White program.
 
Eligibility is now limited to people with annual incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level; that puts the threshold at about $32,000 for a single-person household. The level had been 500 percent.
 
The waiting list means that no one begins getting assistance until someone leaves the program.
 
The $35 million program, supported by a combination of state and federal dollars, no longer will pay for medications that aren't directly related to treating the virus, and it won't provide help for transportation and housing. It will continue to cover anti-retroviral drugs and drugs that prevent infections.
 
Those losing aid "are very stressed out now, wondering if they're going to get the medication that keeps them alive," said Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio AIDS Coalition. "To be frank about it, this could be disastrous for individuals and their health care."
 
Program staff members called clients who were being cut off from funding, and they also are informing others who will remain eligible but lose some services, Carey said. Case managers will continue to work with everyone who needs help finding medications, regardless of their income, he said.
 
In particular, case managers will help people apply to get their drugs free from the pharmaceutical companies that make them.
 
The sour economy in recent years has led more HIV-positive Americans to seek help when they lose their insurance or their jobs. About 3,000 additional people have signed up for assistance since the end of 2005, Carey said.
 
"We've been getting about 100 new clients per month. That's largely what is spurring these changes, is the increase in enrollment and increased program costs," he said.
 
Since April, 12 other states have made cuts in their programs, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.
 
As of June 24, 1,840 Americans were on waiting lists.
 
Community groups, including the Columbus AIDS Task Force, will try to help those affected by the cuts, Sullivan said.
 
People who adhere to treatment plans are less likely to spread the virus, making the prospect of people dropping their medicine even more concerning, Sullivan said.
 
And because the state program no longer will pay for medications not directly related to HIV, people will face other challenges, he said. In particular, he's concerned about those with mental illnesses stopping their psychiatric medications and then neglecting the treatment of their HIV.
 
The good news is that most drugmakers have been generous in providing HIV medicine to those who can't pay for it, Sullivan said.
 
He said he's hopeful the federal government will rescue the struggling drug-assistance programs with an infusion of money.
 
mcrane@dispatch.com
 
 
 
 
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