Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ADAP Tid-Bits...

The following are ADAP tid-bits of interest...

Post Election analysis

The 2010 midterm elections, characterized by most respected political pundits as a GOP tidal wave, swept into power a record number 63 Republicans to the House of Representatives and bringing their total to 242 seats - which is the most the GOP has held in more than 60 years. The Republican Party also gained a respectable 6 seats in the Senate, despite losing some marquee races headlined by Tea Party candidates where GOP-gains seemed eminent - including Colorado, Delaware and Nevada. The shift in power provides HIV/AIDS activists with some new opportunities, as well as some serious challenges. Among the emerging opportunities is the GOP's top two House leaders hailing from Ohio (Rep. John Boehner as Speaker) and Virginia (Rep. Eric Cantor as Majority Leader) where the political embarrassment of current ADAP waiting lists could force both lawmakers to seek additional funding, as well as the historical perspective that some of the largest ADAP funding increases occurred after the GOP was swept into power after the 1994 midterm congressional elections. But there remain significant challenges, such as Republican rhetoric to scale back recent health care reform legislation, and efforts by budget deficit hawks to scale back federal discretionary appropriations to 2008 levels.

The mere fact that the Democratic controlled-Congress did little to address the ongoing ADAP crisis, despite super majorities in both chambers of Congress coupled with a Democrat in the White House, has left the HIV/AIDS advocacy community splintered and divided. While in some instances congressional Republicans failure to support emergency supplemental funding, their minority status in both the House and Senate shouldn't have been a deterrent to Democrats seeking and approving a legislative remedy to the crisis. The lack of uniformity in the community's message has the potential to make successful advocacy efforts moving forward even more problematic. This is most clearly evidenced by certain groups and advocates putting their personal partisan preferences ahead of the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS more challenging to say the least.

Thus the success of HIV/AIDS advocacy during the 112th Congress will be left more so in the hands of local grassroots efforts, where most real change occurs. The next Congress is scheduled to meet in from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2013.

World AIDS Day marred by record ADAP waiting lists

On what would typically be hailed as an opportunity to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and celebrate progress achieved in fighting the disease, will ultimately be marred by the reality that more than 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States have either been placed on waiting lists or denied treatment under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Current ADAP waiting lists are nearly four-times higher than the levels reached during the previous crisis in 2004-05, under President George W. Bush. While President Barack Obama deserves credit for developing the nation's first-ever National AIDS Strategy, ending the HIV travel ban and supporting needle exchange programs, his record on ADAP is no better than his predecessor in the Oval Office.

The news just keeps getting worse, too! In Louisiana, beginning on December 1st, all persons receiving their medicines through Medicare/Medicaid will be allowed four prescriptions only. All other must have prior written authorization from a doctor, stating prescriptions are medically necessary. In Ohio, proposed changes include the removal of all local consortia activities (removal of client voices at the local level), and the institution of medical criteria (last proposed was to cut anyone that had never had their CD4 count drop below 200 during the course of their entire illness). In addition, ALL of activities funded by the PART B program could be subject to waiting lists as written, which could include areas of Medical Case Management, Prescription Drugs, Health Insurance, Emergency, Dental and Mental Health. Then there is Florida, where 350 ADAP clients will be disenrolled from the program early next year.

Lame Duck Session shaping-up to be...well, pretty lame!

With the Lame Duck Session of the 2nd Session of the 111th Congress already well-underway, many HIV/AIDS advocates are increasingly skeptical that a bipartisan agreement will be reached on the ADAP crisis. Despite behind-the-scenes dialogue between Democrats and Republicans, and House and Senate lawmakers, time is slipping away as more contentious political battles are being waged debating repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), extending the Bush-era tax cuts and ratifying the latest START Treaty with Russia.

Leading up to the Lame Duck, nearly 100 HIV/AIDS organizations sent a sign-on letter to President Obama and Members of Congress seeking the much-needed additional ADAP funding. The letter reads, in part: "We write to urge you to address the immediate crisis in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) funding as well as ensuring ADAP is fully funded for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. Across the nation, individuals, families and states are in economic crisis; lost jobs have led to even more restricted access to health insurance. Individuals living with HIV/AIDS also carry a unique burden as they seek viable treatment options during this severe economic downturn. Not surprisingly, the burden on ADAP, which provide medications to underinsured and uninsured Americans, has also significantly increased and federal funding has not kept pace." READ LETTER HERE

Certain Members of Congress have used the Lame Duck to call attention to HIV/AIDS, especially as it relates to funding for the next federal fiscal year.

On November 12th, 14 House Democrats penned a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chair David R. Obey and Ranking Member Jerry Lewis seeking additional HIV/AIDS funding for Fiscal Year 2011 during the Lame Duck Session. The letter was endorsed by Barbara Lee (CA-9), Jose E. Serrano (NY-16), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), Sam Farr (CA-17), Michael M. Honda (CA-15), Tim Ryan (OH-17), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), Maxine Waters (CA-35), Henry A. Waxman (CA-30), Tammy Baldwin (WI-2), Donna M Christensen (USVI), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), Mike Quigley (IL-5) and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (IL-2). As part of the letter, they requested an additional $50 million in ADAP funding.

On November 23rd, Rep. Lee (who is widely-recognized as a champion of HIV/AIDS-related issues) followed with another statement, which read, in part: "As we recognize World AIDS Day on December 1st and consider the significance of these new developments, we must be mindful that how we respond to this news today will define the course of the global pandemic for years to come. The release of the first ever National AIDS Strategy by President Obama earlier this year, combined with the return of the International AIDS Conference to the United States in 2012, after a 21 year boycott, will shine an international spotlight on our country's global response to this disease over the next two years. With over 4,157 people across nine states currently on waiting lists for lifesaving AIDS treatment in the United States and nearly 10 million HIV positive people around the world still in need of treatment - we must not let our commitment to fighting this pandemic falter or our resolve fail."

It remains to be seen whether what, if anything, will be accomplished on ADAP for the current federal fiscal year, or the next one.

Heinz-Welvista solution

aaa+ is pleased to announce that it is partnering with the Community Access National Network and ADA National Network to host an educational virtual training conference on the Heinz-Welvista Solution to the ongoing ADAP crisis. The online training, which will be held on Monday, December 6th from 2:00 - 3:30 pm (EST) is free to all interested parties who want to gain a fuller perspective from the Heinz Family Philanthropies and Welvista Pharmacy about how their solution can address the many issues confronting people living with HIV disease on wait lists. LEARN MORE...

Passing of our friend, colleague and hero...Randy Allgaier

The ADAP Advocacy Association celebrates the life of longtime HIV/AIDS advocate, Randy Allgaier, who passed away over the weekend! Randy was an inspiration to everyone who knew him, and a mentor to many of us within the HIV/AIDS community. Randy will be missed, but never will we forget him! For anyone who knew Randy Allgaier either personally or professionally, they would undoubtedly agree that he was a one-in-a-million. As devoted husband to Lee Hawn, an avid policy wonk on public health for and employment of people living with HIV/AIDS and devoted champion of LGBTQI-equality, Randy touched the lives of countless people, no matter what he was doing. Despite adversity, including living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and Anal Cancer, Randy never let the world around him pause about his ongoing commitment to make the world a better place.
Earlier this year, Randy was a keynote speaker during the aaa+ Annual ADAP Summit. He discussed the good, bad and ugly surrounding the new health care reform law, especially as it relates to people living with HIV/AIDS. Not surprisingly, according to feedback that we received during the Summit, attendees found Randy's presentation and remarks extremely helpful.

[Photo from left to right: Amanda Kornegay, Brandon Macsata, Joey Wynn and Randy Allgaier]

Words cannot describe the loss that so many people are feeling, yet coupled with a true sense of celebration knowing that Randy touched us all. Per Randy's husband Lee, Randy's body will be cremated and his ashes scattered as per his wishes. There will be a gathering of friends and family at a later date still to be decided.

Randy - You will be missed!