Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Win Some; You Lose Some!

There has been no shortage of ADAP-related news and developments over the last month - some good; some bad!

While the crisis is national in scope, Florida's crisis is so severe that it continues to garner much of the national spotlight - even as a catastrophe was averted earlier this month (see related Fair Pricing Coalition press release below). The Los Angeles Times over the weekend ran an excellent news story, entitled "Other routes to HIV drug assistance: There are options beyond sitting on a state program's waiting list," which also included important information about where to look for help. The article can be viewed online. Earlier this month, PBS ran an online story, "Funding Shortage Threatens AIDS Drug Programs." The PBS story highlighted many of the challenges being faced in Florida. The article can be viewed online.

aaa+ released two long-awaited Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. The PSAs included a 60-second video for television, as well as a 5-minute video for the Internet. The former began airing on nearly 300 media outlets nationwide, so hopefully it will raise some much-needed awareness about ADAPs and the important role in plays in the lives of so many people living with HIV/AIDS. They can be viewed online. The PSAs, as well as the recently-convened 2011 ADAP Emergency Summit, continued to receive excellent news coverage.

There was also some much-needed good news out of Washington, DC. While the U.S. House of Representatives was debating the federal government's budget for the current fiscal year, Florida Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings introduced an amendment to provide an additional $42 million to the cash-strapped program (Note: October 1st represents the start of the federal government's new fiscal year, but because the Congress failed to pass a budget prior to September 30th the federal government has been operating under a series of 'Continuing Resolutions' - or short-term funding mechanisms). The amendment - which is largely due to the efforts of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation - passed unanimously by voice vote. It reads as follows:

The amounts otherwise provided by this Act are revised by reducing the amount made available for "Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Health Resources and Services'', by reducing the amount made available for "Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Disease Control, Research, and Training'', by reducing the amount made available for "Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health'', and by increasing the amount made available for "Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Health Resources and Services'', by $14,000,000, by $14,000,000, by an additional $14,000,000, and by $42,000,000, respectively.

aaa+ was among the first organizations to applaud Rep. Hastings for his leadership on the ADAP crisis with his amendment.

The 'Hastings Amendment' - as it is known - came on the heels of aaa+ issuing its 2010 ADAP Congressional Scorecard, in which EVERY Member of Congress was given a failing grade. Clearly Hastings' amendment was a bright spot during a very dark "perfect storm" ravaging the nation's ADAPs. The rational behind the decision to fail the entire U.S Congress is actually very simple, although the decision wasn't taken lightly. Despite ADAPs enjoying strong bipartisan and bicameral support in the Congress, lawmakers failed to do anything while ADAP waiting lists exploded and thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS languished waiting for their life-saving medications. It is important to mention that some lawmakers in the U.S House of Representatives and U.S. Senate received an "Honorable Mention" for their work on ADAP last year. The 2010 ADAP Congressional Scorecard can be viewed online.

But not all the ADAP-related news has been so welcomed...

In an effort to address the rising federal budget deficit, House Republicans have embarked on a campaign to slash spending. Their first target is the current fiscal year's spending bill (same bill that the Hastings' amendment was incorporated into). Unfortunately, some of the targeted discretionary spending cuts include important 'safety net' programs, including WIC - $758M, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) - $220M, Community Health Centers - $1.3B, Family Planning - $327M, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - $755M, National Institutes of Health (NIH) - $1B, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services - $96M, LIHEAP ("Low Income Heating & Energy Assistance Program") Contingency fund - $400M, and Community Services Block Grant - $405M, just to name a few. Ryan White and other HIV/AIDS-related programs have been sparred, thus far.

Meanwhile, President Obama introduced his Fiscal Year 2001 ("FY11") budget. In an effort to out maneuver the House GOP on spending cuts, his FY11 budget includes a five-year freeze on most discretionary spending programs - which didn't include Ryan White programs. While the President did propose some modest spending increases, many in the HIV/AIDS community felt that the President failed to fund these programs adequately.

The ADAP Advocacy Association will continue to monitor the ongoing ADAP crisis. Thanks for your ongoing interest and support!

Brandon M. Macsata, CEO
ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+)

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