Elton John and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) have an op-ed in Politico this morning urging Congress to increase funding for programs that provide access to HIV/AIDS drugs. “All 50 states now have assistance programs for people with low income, living with the disease. But, in an increasing number, the need for these medications is greater than federal and state funding,” the two warn, arguing that “these cuts will only lead to higher costs to taxpayers in the long run“:
First, patients who lose their assistance and are forced off HIV medications could develop drug-resistant strains of HIV — which may well be more difficult to manage.
Second, denying treatment to low-income, HIV-positive people will most likely result in increased transmission of the disease. A recent, groundbreaking study by the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that people living with HIV who receive effective drug treatment are 96 percent less likely to pass the virus on to their uninfected partners.
Third, while HIV/AIDS medications are expensive, the emergency room and hospital care required by people who do not receive them is far more costly.
While Congress debates funding levels for the next fiscal year — President Obama asked Congress to increase funding for AIDS medications to $940 million in the next fiscal year, but a Senate appropriations subcommittee has only approved $900 million — HHS has recently released $1.89 billion in grants through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Approximately $1.213 billion will be sent to states and territories under Part B of the Ryan White Program, with $813 million of that total designated specifically for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP is a national initiative funded by the federal and state governments and run by the states that provides prescription drug coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS. As of October, 7,409 individuals in 10 states were waiting to sign up for the program.
Meanwhile, health advocates continue to fight against cuts to health care programs that HIV/AIDS patients rely on. Earlier this week, House members from California met with CMS Administrator Donald Berwick and urged him to deny the state’s request to cut $1.4 billion from Medicaid, the single largest source of coverage for people with HIV.