Arkansas Health Department To Use Federal Housing Funds for State AIDS Drug Assistance Program
Officials from the Arkansas Department of Health on Thursday said they have scrapped plans to cut as many as 100 people from the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program after they received authorization to use $390,000 in unused money from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to bolster the program, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Smith, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/7). ADAPs are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/16/04). Officials blame the state ADAP's financial shortfall on increasing drug costs and demand of the longer life spans of HIV-positive people, the Democrat-Gazette reports. The health department discovered the unused funds in the state's 2003 allocation from HUD's Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program. Although the HUD funds will provide a "temporary fix" for ADAP, some people questioned the decision, noting that about 50 HIV-positive people currently are on the state's list for housing help, according to the Democrat-Gazette. "It's too bad that with the long waiting list that the housing funds are having to be diverted into medication funds," Sandra Wilson, executive director of the Arkansas Supportive Housing Network -- which contracts with the health department for the housing funds -- said.
Before gaining permission to use the housing funds, Jerry Jones, head of the health department's infectious disease unit, had announced that 65 clients would be cut from ADAP and 30 to 35 more people would have been cut if funding was not found by Feb. 1, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Jones said that the program currently has 30 people on its waiting list. In order to save money, the department also has stopped paying for two drugs it previously covered and "tightened" the program's income eligibility requirement from at or below 300% of the federal poverty level to at or below 200%, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) has declined lawmakers' requests to use any of the state's $500,000 in discretionary funds to supplement the state ADAP, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Health department officials said they plan to request that the state Legislature provide $1.2 million for the program over the next two years. The health department plans to move any ADAP clients cut from the program to drug companies' no-cost patient assistance programs, Jones said (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/7).