“Keeping them honest” – where is the money?
The ongoing saga over the number of Americans living with HIV/AIDS being denied access to care under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) belongs on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. The crisis has been escalating for over two years, full of its share of empty promises, demands for fact-checking, and people -- especially patients -- wondering what to believe. "Keeping them honest" couldn't sum it up any better.
Almost two months ago on World AIDS Day, December 1st 2011, President Obama thankfully promised an additional $35 million dollars that would go to state ADAPs. This money should have already been rolled out. However no state has yet to see any of these additional funds, and the frustration level in the HIV/AIDS community is building.
Also building are the ADAP waitlists in America; which on January 19th, 2012 totaled 4,611 individuals across 12 states waiting to receive the anti-retroviral medication they need to stay alive, remain healthy, and productive. While this number is down from a high of nearly 10,000 last year, once again, the number has steadily been on the uptick.
So what is the hold up? Where is this money? Where is it coming from, and when will it be allocated to the states?
The $35 million dollars is reallocated HHS (Health and Human Services) funds, but before the funds can be reallocated the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) needs to approve. Apparently, saving lives is not at the top of the OMB list. As PLWHA continue to wait for these funds more people will become infected, more people will be put onto wait-lists, states will try to change criteria making it difficult for people to get medicine, and sadly people will likely die.
Once approved by the OMB then states will begin the competitive process of requesting this additional money. The most competitiveness will be among states with waiting list and already implemented cost containment measures. This all takes time. A current guestimate on when this money may start to roll out is not until July 2012!! That would be 7 months from the date of the announcement made on December 1st, 2012!
Did you know on the first day of American intervention in Lybia it cost US tax payers $100 million dollars, and over the three month period from April – July a total of nearly $1 billion was spent on the war with Lybia? Why will it take 7 months to distribute $35 million in reallocated HHS funds to states with people who continue to wait for the medicine they need?
Since Obama took office a robust national dialogue on HIV/AIDS has taken place, the National HIV/AIDS strategy was developed, his administration has increased overall funding to record levels, he re-authorized the Ryan White care act, and eliminated the travel ban on HIV positive individuals entering the United States. He has done a lot of good when it comes to HIV/AIDS, but more must be done here at home. With the 2012 International AIDS Conference coming to Washington, DC, isn't it embarrassing for the United States of America to deny access to care to thousands of patients who desperately need it?
“We are at the beginning of the end of this epidemic” the President said on World AIDS Day 2011, and said on this day that his vision was that “…..every American can get access to life extending care” but that vision, neither is hope in insight for the thousands of Americans that continue to be on ADAP wait-lists.