Waiting lists for for government-funded life-sustaining antiretroviral drugs for people with HIV and AIDS have ballooned to nearly 1,800 people from zero just three years ago. What's caused this change? Quite simply, the recession.
Diminished government coffers combined with widespread loss of medical insurance due to unemployment has created the perfect storm for a burgeoning public health and budgetary crisis. Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas and Utah are among numerous states that have either closed enrollment or narrowed eligibility in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Ten states are no longer covering treatments that do not directly combat HIV or opportunistic infections, and Florida will likely winnow its list of 101 covered medications to 53.
HIV-positive people who rely on treatments they receive through the program are at greater risk for their condition deteriorating into AIDS, resulting in expensive hospitalizations, if they cannot get access to the drugs. Doctors and AIDS prevention advocates worry that nearly two decades of progress in the fight against AIDS and HIV will be reversed if patients are prevented from receiving their medications.
"The worry now is that there are medicines, but you can't afford them. A lot of patients are certainly old enough to remember what happens if you don't get your medicines," Dr. Wayne A. Duffus, director of the drug assistance program in South Carolina told The New York Times.
Kevin Sack, national correspondent for our partner, The New York Times, has an article about this disturbing trend in today's paper. He joins the program to talk about his reporting.