AIDS Services in Seattle Area Facing ‘Major Challenges,’ Opinion Piece Says
"Because AIDS isn't on the front page anymore, too many people think the disease is no longer an issue," Chuck Kuehn, executive director of the Seattle-based Lifelong AIDS Alliance, writes in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion piece, adding that the irony is that "[t]imes are tougher than ever for those in our community living with HIV and AIDS." According to Kuehn, there are currently several "major challenges" facing people living in the Seattle area with HIV/AIDS. First, the area's safety net is "strain[ed]" because people with the disease are living longer due to improved treatments. While advances in HIV/AIDS care represent an "undeniable medical achievement," they are "weaken[ing] the ability of state programs and service providers to continue to provide care" for the growing number of people living with the disease, he says. Next, he notes that many people with HIV/AIDS are low-income and require many forms of government assistance. Washington state's current budget crisis has already impacted these services and will continue to do so if measures are not undertaken to solve it, he writes. Kuehn says that the state budget crisis could also negatively impact access to AIDS medications. Many people receive help with purchasing their medications, which can cost between $12,000 and $15,000 a year, from the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. But the program is in a "financial crisis" and may have to limit enrollment, "essentially denying access to treatment for low-income individuals," he notes. In addition, the state's low-income health plan, which serves many people with HIV/AIDS, is "running out of money" and is "in jeopardy due to a shortfall in the Health Services Account," Kuehn says. "The AIDS epidemic is far from over. ... However, state funding for prevention has remained stagnant, forcing agencies to do more work with fewer resources," he states, noting that two additional people in Washington state are infected with HIV each day, according to the CDC. "The fight must continue - because there still is no cure. Our attention may have wandered from the subject, but AIDS is still here," Kuehn concludes (Kuehn, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.