About AIDS

Drug Assistance Program Needs Support

Neither the Texas Legislature's looming budget challenges nor last week's Republican sweep of important political races bodes well for people with HIV. Getting caught in the crunch is the Texas AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides health-prolonging, life-saving medications for HIV-positive people across the state. Funding shortages are predicted this year and next, unless either the Lege or Congress -- or both -- act before summer.

Today, access to the "drug cocktail" literally means the difference between life and death: If one gets on the therapies at the appropriate time and can solidly maintain the regimen, significant success against HIV can be predicted. Unfortunately, the majority of HIV-positive people do not have private insurance or independent wealth. The medications are expensive -- about the same as advanced diabetes or kidney disease -- and Texas' ADAP presently provides for about 12,000 HIV-positive people.

The funding shortfall, if not remedied, may mean that Texas' ADAP could boot 1,700 people off the meds roster who are currently receiving help, plus they could refuse to admit another 2,500 individuals who would qualify under present guidelines. Most of those 4,200 Texans can be safely predicted to progress in their disease, perhaps all the way to AIDS and then probably death.

The cost: the lives of hundreds, perhaps several thousands, of individuals; years of lost economic and social productivity, enormous Medicaid and Medicare bills related to advancing morbidity and mortality.

If anyone has ever believed that this disease is not a political issue, the present ADAP crisis should convince them. We each need to call on our elected representatives to be sure that both the next session of Congress and the Legislature attend to the business of the people.

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