Hawaii HIV/AIDS Patients Worried That Government Hiring Freeze Will Affect State’s HIV/AIDS Programs
Some HIV/AIDS patients in Hawaii are concerned that a hiring freeze instituted by Gov. Linda Lingle (R) could leave state programs that provide services and medications to HIV-positive individuals "floundering" without staff, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. In December 2002, three temporary positions with the Hawaii Department of Health's Sexually Transmitted Disease and AIDS Prevention Branch were converted to permanent civil service positions. The branch administers three programs that assist people living with HIV: HSPAMM, which provides testing and medical monitoring and facilitates access to treatment for about 900 HIV/AIDS patients in Hawaii; HCOBRA, which provides continuation of health insurance premium payments for people who lose coverage after leaving work due to HIV/AIDS; and HDAP, which offers medications for approximately 300 people who do not have medical insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid coverage. According to the Star-Bulletin, recruitment for the branch's director and patient services coordinator positions has begun. Although the department had to create a special classification for the third position, the government also is currently recruiting for that position, according to Kathleen Watanabe, director of human resources development for the department. She said that the governor's hiring freeze on vacant positions "will not affect the three top positions in the program" and the vacancy announcements will be extended if the process of recruiting is not completed by June 30, according to the Star-Bulletin. "This is a really good example that we're going to make sure the bureaucracies of government don't stop essential services to the community," Watanabe said. Tom Sheeran, chair of Hawaii Cares, a statewide consortium of AIDS care services, said that the programs "are not widely known or well understood, but they do important work kind of behind the scenes." He added, "All these programs save money by getting people early treatment ... which means keeping them out of the final stages of the disease, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in the last days of life" (Altonn, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.