Arkansas ADAP Could Start Waiting List Soon Because of Funding Shortage, Health Department Says
The Arkansas Department of Health has said that it soon expects to begin a waiting list for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program for the first time since July 2002, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Smith, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 4/14). ADAPs -- which are funded with both state and federal money -- provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals. According to the most recent "ADAP Watch" released last week by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, 13 states as of this month have implemented waiting lists or access restrictions on their ADAPs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/9). Based on the amount of federal ADAP funding Arkansas receives, the state can subsidize antiretroviral medications for a maximum of 460 people living with HIV, and there are currently 459 people enrolled in the program, the Democrat-Gazette reports. HIV-positive people are eligible for the Arkansas program if their income is at or below 300% of the federal poverty level -- $27,930 for a single person -- and they are not eligible for state Medicaid coverage. Although the state Legislature in 2001 helped to eliminate a 200-person waiting list by allocating $660,000 for the program to spend over two years, state lawmakers in 2003 allocated no funding for the program. According to the Democrat-Gazette, it is "unlikely" that state lawmakers could allocate new state funds to prevent the waiting list.
Ann Wright of the state health department said, "AIDS patients are living longer lives because they have access to better meds. [That] raises the number of clients that are enrolled in ADAP, and so the waiting list is looming." Jay Burk, director of Fort Smith Fights AIDS, which provides HIV-related services under the state ADAP, said, "The funding level that we got from the federal government did not increase very much. Unfortunately, the caseload continues to go up. And the number of prescriptions that each person is taking seems to be going up also. So it's inevitable that this would happen." He added, "We just can't afford it." Eric Camp, director of public policy for Positive Voices, a Little Rock, Ark.-based not-for-profit group for people living with HIV/AIDS, who is also an ADAP client, said he plans to abdicate his spot in the program for the first person placed on a waiting list, according to the Democrat-Gazette. He added, "I personally refuse to take HIV medications until the ADAP waiting list is over. I feel that strongly about it." Wright said that the search for funding is "something that we'll continue to explore at the federal and state level." However, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said, "I'm not aware of any current sources of additional funds considering the budget constraints" the state is facing. Burk said that patients on the state's ADAP waiting list could take advantage of drug makers' programs that offer medicines to HIV-positive patients who cannot afford them, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Burk added, "There's not a reason for someone to die while they're waiting to get their meds because they should be able to get their meds through patient-assistance programs" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 4/14).