AIDS Cases in Washington Increase Among Poor, Women, Minorities
AIDS cases in Washington state are increasing faster in Pierce and Kitsap counties than in the rest of the state, and the increases are mainly among women, minorities and the poor, the Tacoma News Tribune reports. The two counties made up 19% of the state's new AIDS cases in 2000, according to health department records. A majority of the patients reported earning less than the annual cost of the AIDS medications, about $12,000 per patient. The number of people with incomes below $30,000 participating in the state's AIDS drug assistance program has increased by 14% every year for the last three years. The federal government has allocated an additional $800,000 to help Washington cover the drugs, and state legislators have included a $1 million increase in the state budget plan, which was approved last month by the Senate, for the $17 million AIDS Prescription Drug Program. The budget is expected to "easily" clear the House, and Gov. Gary Locke (D) indicated his approval of the funding in his budget proposal. Health officials said that the increase in reported cases may be because it is "easier to get services" in the counties than it was in previous years. The current situation is "reminiscent of some of the earlier years of the epidemic when people didn't know they were HIV-positive until they became ill. In some ways, Pierce County is a bellwether for the rest of the state. It's a younger population, higher percentages of people of color and more women," Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D), who is on leave as director of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation, said. The House Appropriations Committee on Monday approved a measure (SB 5679) calling for a study of the "changing AIDS population" in the state and "where state money is spent" on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention (Silver, Tacoma News Tribune, 4/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.