North Carolina Group To Call on State Legislature To Fund State AIDS Drug Assistance Program
The North Carolina AIDS Action Network, a coalition of advocates, drug companies, case managers and others that was created in fall 2002, plans to lobby for funding to "improv[e] the access poor people have to" HIV/AIDS drugs when the state Legislature convenes later this month, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. The state's eligibility rules for its AIDS Drug Assistance Program are the most stringent in the nation; HIV-positive people who are at 125% of the federal poverty level -- or up to $11,075 annually -- are eligible for state assistance. Some AIDS advocates said that the tight standards are "unrealistic" due to the high cost of HIV/AIDS treatments, the News & Observer reports. In 2002, the state contributed $8 million to its ADAP program, in addition to its $9 million federal allocation, but according to the News & Observer those funds "didn't go far enough"; the program was closed to new enrollees and a waiting list was started. In the fall, the program received a $3 million critical-need grant and was able to clear its 817-person waiting list. However, enrollment for the programs has again frozen and 200 people are on the waiting list, according to Dr. Steve Cline, North Carolina's chief epidemiologist. He added, "We've done what is prudent in managing the program by closing it, so we don't run out of money for people who have been receiving medication." Some AIDS advocates said that NCAAN faces a "difficult battle" because lawmakers must also address the state's budget deficit. Patrick Lee, program director for the North Carolina Counsel for Positive Living and an organizer of the network, said, "If you ... need state support for medications, the message you are getting is that we can't help. It's almost a slap in the face." State officials will ask the General Assembly for $13 million to reopen the program and propose increasing eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level, or an annual salary up to $17,720 (Avery, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.