Friday, December 9, 2011

Hershey hate; demand the Hershey's Company intervene to reverse decision on HIV+ student and dismiss school officials

***Reprinted with permission from RiseUpToHIV***

How sad that this story continues and the school has not reversed course.  Each night for the past three nights CNN’s Anderson Cooper AC360 news show has made this a top story and has been giving it a lot of attention. Thank you Anderson. To view a clip of the story that appeared on AC360, click here.

However, this story has fallen out of news media and the public spotlight, we need to press on with story. We must not allow this school and the Hershey's Company to remain silent on this issue. We deserve a dignified and actionable response.  Below is my take on this incident and the various information that has been in the news.

The communications director of the school has made numerous on air appearances continuing to support statements coming from the school. Does Connie McNamara, Vice President of Communications at Milton Hershey School really stand behind these statements each night, does she really believe in the words in these statements, and is she THAT uneducated about HIV/AIDS?!? Or, is she trying to keep a job? If I were her I would do the right thing and resign my position immediately.  I feel this fear goes deeper into the administration at Milton Hershey and those NOT in support of this decision have a moral duty to walk away,  bring down the veil and reveal who the real fear mongers are at this school.  It is time for Milton Hershey Trust Company to intervene in this matter!

I cannot believe the ignorance surrounding this story, and why the parents of these children of the school are not in support of this boy?!? Have we really fallen back 20 + years on AIDS education and awareness? I am mad and saddened. If I had the organizing power I would organize busloads of protestors to descend on the school and we would hold out for days, or weeks. If not to force the school to accept this student, but to stand in solidarity with this student as reminder that HIV/AIDS is still around 30 years later, and that this kind of discrimination today, especially in America cannot be tolerated.

I am further outraged that a school founded by the Hershey Co.  in 1909 and financed by the Milton Hershey School Trust, which also holds the controlling interest in The Hershey Co. has yet to issue a statement or intervene in this matter. Below is part of the mission statement for the Hershey Co…..

"At The Hershey Company, we make the chocolate brands that people love. Hershey’s Mission Statement, Bringing sweet moments of Hershey happiness to the world every day, summarizes our company, our people, our past and our future. Our history of producing the world’s best treats goes back more than 100 years. We take great pride in our brands and in the fun and enjoyment our products add to the lives of our consumers.

Hershey has a distinguished record of supporting the well-being of children through our relationship with Milton Hershey School. The School was established by the company’s founder in 1909 and provides a nurturing environment, quality education, housing, and medical care at no cost to children in social and financial need. The School is administered by the Hershey Trust Company, Hershey’s largest shareholder, making the students of Milton Hershey School direct beneficiaries of Hershey’s success."

By denying access to this child to the Milton Hershey School, Hershey Co. has gone a 100 year back on its strong values, and distinguished record of supporting the well-being of children. Milton Hershey School and Hershey Co. have put the well-being of this child at risk, and the school and Hershey Co. should be held liable to the highest extent of the law. No longer will I think of Hershey as bringing sweet moments and happiness to the world every day. When I see a Hershey product it will bring me disgust and sadness. I will forever connect the Hershey Co Brand with this horrific display of ignorance.

I have started a petition on asking people to sign and leave a comment, regarding boycotting the Hershey brand and supporting a statement directly from the Hershey Trust Company.  Again, if I had the organizing power I would position protestors outside grocery stores throughout the country, asking shoppers to boycott Hershey products; especially during this holiday season.

I can only hope the community of Hershey, PA, surrounding communities, the students and the parents of the school take a stand, by rising up to HIV, dismantle the ignorance that lies deep within this schools administration. As a PLWH and in solidarity with those around the World; we must and will continue to educate the public on the very minimal risks of contracting HIV/AIDS. I would immediately call on and ask the Hershey Trust Company to intervene and issue a statement on this matter.

In the interim I have compiled a list below of all Hershey products you may consider boycotting, and remember to sign the petition!

With sadness in my heart and with hope for a positive outcome,  

Kevin Maloney
Founder: Rise Up To HIV
“Voices in Unity Strengthening Community”


If you would like to write a letter, send an e mail, and/or call the school and the Hershey Company a list of contact information is below:

Milton Hershey School
PH: (717) 520-2000
Admissions 1-800-322-3248
Fax: (717) 520-2117
Hershey Company
(A phone number is listed, and you can fill out an online form choosing which state in the US or where in Canada you are located)

Almond Joy Bars
Breathsavers Pucks
Breathsavers Rolls
Hershey's Chocolate for Baking Bars
Hershey's Cocoa
Sweet & Salty granola bars
Hershey's Bars
Hershey's BLISS
Hershey's EXTRA DARK
Hershey's Jar Toppings
Hershey's KISSES
Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes
Hershey's Nuggets
Hershey's POT OF GOLD
Hershey's Sundae Syrup
Ice Breakers FROST
Ice Breakers ICE CUBES Gum
Ice Breakers Mints
Ice Breakers Sours
Ice Breakers Stick Gum
Kit Kat Wafer Bars
Mauna Loa Boxed Chocolates
Mauna Loa Mix
Mauna Loa Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts
Mauna Loa Cookies
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts
Mounds Bars
Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes
Shell Toppings
Scharffen Berger
Hershey's SYMPHONY
Reese's Crispy Crunchy
Reese's Peanut Butter
Reese's Peanut Butter Toppings
Reese's Select
Reese's WHIPPS
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Twizzlers Bites
Twizzlers NIBS
Twizzlers PULL N PEEL Candy
Twizzlers Twists

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Solutions, not Proclamations, are needed to ‘End The Wait’

Since 1987, December 1st has been dedicated to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS with World AIDS Day. In 2011, people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States have much be thankful about with respect to the progress achieved over the years. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence with the advent of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART); HIV/AIDS is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and President Barack Obama was the first president to unveil a National AIDS Strategy to combat HIV/AIDS in America. But not all the news is promising, and there remains much work to be done. Reflecting upon the millions of lives lost in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, it is important to remember that there remains negative stigma associated with the disease; thirty-six states have HIV criminalization laws on the books; and in the wealthiest nation there are 6,595 people living with HIV/AIDS in twelve states on waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs).

People living with HIV/AIDS have come to expect proclamations on World AIDS Day from the President, Congress, Governors, State Legislators, Mayors, City Councils, AIDS Service Organizations, State Health Departments, and so on. Whereas proclamations make us all feel good, they do little to solve the ongoing ADAP crisis that has allowed thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS to fall through the cracks of our public health system. So, it begs the question: What do these proclamations do to help the 75 people in Alabama, 3,213 people in Florida, 1,525 people in Georgia, 5 people in Idaho, 475 people in Louisiana, 9 people in Montana, 9 people in Nebraska, 95 people in North Carolina, 0 people in Ohio, 65 people in South Carolina, 13 people in Utah, and 1,111 people in Virginia presently being denied access to appropriate, timely care and treatment?

While there remain a few ideological "Talibangelicals" who view HIV/AIDS as God's "punishment" for behavior or lifestyle, Americans have mostly opened their hearts and their minds to accepting and helping people living with the disease. By in large, politicians of both political parties have recognized the importance of stable, robust HIV/AIDS programs - including ADAPs. That is why what marks the 24th celebration of World AIDS Day, how can thousands of people living with a potentially life-threatening disease be asked to WAIT for their life-saving medications?

Read related CNN Story, "The long wait"

Yesterday, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to State Department Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seeking to find a solution to the lingering ADAP crisis facing thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS languishing on waiting lists. Their letter comes on the heels of similar requests made by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL-23), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-20), Ted Deutch (D-FL-19), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17) to HHS. Each of these lawmakers have been fighting to secure additional federal funding since the crisis started over two years ago.

[Photo: Burr-Coburn-Enzi-Isakson ADAP Letter]

And today, President Obama announced he has directed HHS to increase funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment by $50 million, including $35 million to ADAPs. This represents the second time in as many years whereby the President has reprogrammed funding to the cash-strapped program. While the additional funding is welcomed news, it remains short of the level necessary to eliminate the ADAP waiting lists entirely.

World AIDS Day is important because it highlights a disease that continues to impact millions of people in this country, and abroad. The proclamations are important because they symbol the national commitment to eradicate the disease. But more important are the solutions designed to help people (and help people help themselves) RIGHT NOW! After all, it are those solutions that are a true testament to nation's commitment to fight HIV/AIDS!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deficits vs. Austerity: Where do either leave ADAPs

Once again, Congress demonstrated that its effectiveness as a governing institution is in serious peril. Congress was unable to complete its Constitutional and Statutory duty to approve a federal budget and send it to the President for his signature. Annually, thirteen appropriation bills must be passed by Congress prior to the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30th. They fund those programs, projects and activities that operate within the discretionary sector of the Federal budget - including the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) under the Ryan White Program. The federal government is now operating under a short-term spending authorization - otherwise known as Continuing Resolution - but it certainly leaves the fate of funding for the cash-strapped ADAPs up in the air.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution provides that "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations[.]" More accurately however, it can be characterized like making sausage.

In recent history, Congress has been forced to lump a litany of federal programs together during a messy, non-transparent legislative process...ending with an "Omnibus" spending package. Omnibus spending bills provide both opportunities and challenges for important federally-funded programs. But in the current fiscal environment, many HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned that needed funding increases will fall by the wayside.

In fact, there is already some indication that programs like ADAP could be facing even harder times. The House Appropriations Committee earlier this year released its draft fiscal year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations. The spending bill includes federal funding for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other related agencies.

Upon releasing its LHHS spending bill, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said, “Many of the programs and services funded in this bill protect the health and safety of the American people and provide assistance to the most vulnerable among us. However, excessive and wasteful spending over the years has put many of the programs and agencies funded in this bill on an irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal path. To protect critical programs and services that many Americans rely on – especially in this time of fiscal crisis – the bill takes decisive action to cut duplicative, inefficient, and wasteful spending to help get these agency budgets onto sustainable financial footing.”

While most observers agree that something needs to be done about the ballooning federal deficit, it begs the question whether deficit spending or austerity measures are more harmful to the public safety net. Are the current 6,489 people living with HIV/AIDS being denied access to appropriate, timely care and treatment "duplicative" as described by Rep. Rogers since the Committee proposed no new ADAP funding?

With respect to Ryan White the draft appropriations bill reads:

"For carrying out title XXVI of the PHS Act with respect to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, $2,311,665,000, of which $1,980,670,000 shall remain available to the Secretary of Health and Human Services through September 30, 2014, for parts A and B of title XXVI of the PHS Act, of which not less than 25 $885,000,000 shall be for State AIDS Drug Assistance Programs under the authority of section 2616 or 311(c) of such Act: Provided, That in addition to amounts provided herein, $25,000,000 shall be available from amounts available under section 241 of the PHS Act to carry out parts A, B, C, and D of title XXVI of the PHS Act to fund Special Projects of National Significance under section 2691."

ADAPs under this scenario would be flat-funded, despite thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS languishing on waiting lists in twelve states. Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, summarized this Republican-backed approach accurately when he said, "If ever passed, this spending bill would set back the progress we are making in preventing HIV and providing basic care and treatment for those who have HIV/AIDS in our country."

According to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) there were 6,489 individuals in 12 states on ADAP waiting lists, as of October 27, 2011 - including 44 individuals in Alabama, 3,260 individuals in Florida, 1,415 individuals in Georgia, 2 individuals in Idaho, 489 individuals in Louisiana, 11 individuals in Montana, 8 individuals in Nebraska, 78 individuals in North Carolina, 0 individuals in Ohio, 60 individuals in South Carolina, 31 individuals in Utah and 1,091 individuals in Virginia.

The House legislation would not only flat-fund ADAPs, but also cut certain prevention programs and ban federal funding of syringe exchange programs. Unfortunately, things don't look much better on the Senate side either. When the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY12 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, it proposed only a $15 million increase for ADAPs despite the waiting list crisis. Fortunately, other HIV/AIDS-related programs were not cut in the Senate's pending version.

In the final analysis, thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS on ADAP waiting lists will be looking to the Congress...and President address this ongoing crisis by making sound decisions on fiscal policy and public health, which aren't mutually exclusive. Whether it's deficit spending, or austerity measures steps need to be taken by the leaders in Washington, DC to enhance the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Period!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Patient Assistance Programs: What Patients Need to Know

The AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) are in a state of emergency. According to the National Alliance for State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), wait lists have tripled by state and increased by over 1,000% by count since the beginning of 2009. Furthermore, state budget cuts in AIDS programs to the tune of $167 million has truly shaken ADAPs nationwide – but especially in the ten (10) states that were forced to institute waiting lists. In 2000, Congress appropriated seventy-two percent (72%) of the federal ADAP earmark; a number which fell to fifty-four percent (54%) in 2009, and below fifty (50%) percent in 2010. This severe drop in the federal commitment to ADAP – in addition to state budget crises – has largely been the catalyst for the spike in HIV patients placed on wait lists since the start of the crisis. It is anticipated that additional states will have to implement some form of cost containment measure in the upcoming months, including wait lists. In light of the present predicament, educational programs designed to link stakeholders to available resources – including prescription assistance programs and co-payment assistance programs – are urgently needed. Only through a coordinated effort of public-private resources can the wait list crisis be averted.

The problem of growing ADAP waiting lists is exacerbated because the United States is facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic of devastating proportion. According to some estimates, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States exceeded two million people by of last year. These numbers are not due to decrease in the near future. In 2006 alone, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimated that there have been more than 56,000 new HIV infections per year for the last decade. If this was not severe enough, the disease is far from color blind. Currently, the incidence rate of new HIV infection among African American men and women is seven times that of the Caucasian population. Furthermore, racial disparities are echoed regionally as the epidemic has seen its most recent unfettered growth in Southern states, which often times have smaller state budgets and fewer access points to comprehensive care.

The good news is that with the advent of new medicines, people living with HIV/AIDS are able to live full and productive lives. The bad news is that it is increasingly difficult for people living with HIV/AIDS to afford their medications. Life saving medications can cost a single patient up to $20,000 per year. This is compounded by the fact that nearly three quarters of all people with HIV/AIDS are either uninsured or dependent on public insurance. This makes strengthening the public HIV/AIDS healthcare system of critical importance – but in the meantime efforts should concentrate on eliminating the wait lists.

With ADAP budgets stretched to the limit, other resources are needed to help plug the gap. Enter prescription assistance programs (PAPs) and co-payment assistance programs. Pharmaceutical company PAPs make available free or low-cost medications to eligible patients, while co-pay programs provide financial assistance for certain health care costs to patients who qualify financially and medically.

PAPs are designed to support low income U.S. residents with free or low cost prescriptions. The programs usually cover brand name drugs only and are administered individually by the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs. PAP programs are administered differently by manufacturer and sometimes by drugs within the same manufacturer. In most cases the programs are designed around income guidelines. Most often income has to be below or just above the poverty guideline set by the federal government. There are some companies that go as high as 2-3 times the poverty guidelines. The majority of the programs require the patients to be U.S. residents, be uninsured, and meet the income requirements. Income verification in the form of W-2, 1099, pay stub, etc. must be provided, as well as any benefit statement received. There are exceptions to these requirements. Some programs, for example, allow insurance but no drug coverage, Medicare D recipients are eligible in some cases. Each program has specific eligibility requirements with some are more stringent than others.

There exists an immediate need in ten states - plus numerous others - to link stakeholders with these two important resources. NASTAD is now reporting 7,299 individuals are currently on ADAP waiting lists, as of October 13, 2011 – including 3,389 people in Florida, 1,763 people in Georgia, 5 people in Idaho, 790 people in Louisiana, 11 people in Montana, 58 people in North Carolina, 0 people in Ohio, 18 people in South Carolina, 51 people in Utah and 1,044 people in Virginia.

In response to this growing crisis, please participate in a training on the state of the epidemic and what can be done to help. The ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+), in coordination with the Community Access National Network (CANN), HealthHIV, AIDS Alabama, Broward House and the Great Lakes ADA Center – which all work to ensure access to care and treatment for every person with HIV in need – is extending this invitation to all ADAP Stakeholders nationwide to gain a fuller perspective from the pharmaceutical companies about how their prescription assistance and co-payment assistance programs can address the many issues confronting people living with HIV disease on wait lists.

The “Accessing & Understanding HIV/AIDS Patient Assistance Programs” virtual trainings are being held to raise awareness about pharmaceutical patient assistance programs (PAPs), in an effort to alleviate the ongoing ADAP crisis. There will be an introductory training for ADAP stakeholders who have little or no knowledge about PAPs, and an advanced training for ADAP stakeholders who are well versed with PAPs, but seek additional information.

Registration is free!

To learn more, or register, please visit

Thursday, September 29, 2011

International AIDS funding vs. Domestic AIDS funding; POTUS must act NOW!

When the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was enacted in 2003 under President George W. Bush, there was an international AIDS crisis facing the world. However, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) in the United States were not immune from it because they were facing potential funding cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, as well as growing waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Today the story is unchanged; in fact, the AIDS crisis in America hasn’t been as dire since the epidemic began 30 years ago. How is it that America can spend BILLIONS in U.S. taxpayer dollars on overseas initiatives under PEPFAR, but cannot find approximately $100 million to alleviate the current ADAP crisis in the United States? Have American PLWHAs have fallen by the wayside under the Obama Administration’s handling of our domestic AIDS crisis, most notably with ADAP waiting lists reaching record high levels?

The outcries from numerous organizations, PLWHAs, their friends, family and loved ones have grown into one movement...with one goal. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the AIDS crisis in America with the achievable goal of ENDING the ADAP crisis now! When will POTUS and other leaders in Washington recognize the problem and finally ACT on it in a substantial and meaningful way?!? The crisis is not going away, and neither are HIV/AIDS advocates!

So, what is PEPFAR?

Launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush with strong bipartisan support, PEPFAR is America’s commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Through shared responsibility and smart investments, PEPFAR is saving lives, building more secure families and helping to stabilize fragile nations.

No one is questioning the need for PEPFAR!

How is PEPFAR funded?

With the generous support of the American people (through taxpayer dollars), the U.S. Government has committed nearly $46 billion to bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and bilateral TB programs through fiscal year (FY) 2012.

PEPFAR’s success is measured in lives improved and saved.

➢ In fiscal year 2010, PEPFAR directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women and children worldwide, up from less than 2.5 million in 2009.
➢ PEPFAR directly supported antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission for more than 600,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in fiscal year 2010, allowing more than 114,000 infants to be born HIV-free.
➢ Through its partnerships with more than 30 countries, PEPFAR directly supported 11 million people with care and support, including nearly 3.8 million orphans and vulnerable children, in fiscal year 2010 alone.

PEPFAR is making smart investments to improve lives, build more secure families and help stabilize fragile nations. With continued support from the U.S. Congress, PEPFAR will be able continuing working towards the goals of treating more than 4 million people, preventing more than 12 million new HIV infections, and caring for more than 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.

➢ For FY 2011, President Obama has requested nearly $7.0 billion, including nearly $5.74 billion for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, $1 billion for the Global Fund, and $251 million for bilateral TB programs.
➢ For FY 2012, the President is requesting nearly $7.2 billion, including nearly $5.6 billion for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, $1.3 billion for the Global Fund, and $254 million for bilateral TB programs.

While international efforts are laudable, and the ROI is huge, domestic funding for HIV/AIDS services and supports are severely underfunded. If POTUS does not act, then many PLWHAs fear a flashback to the 80’s...people dying. This time not because there are no medicines to treat the disease, but because we have insufficient funding to put these medicines in the hands of the people who need them. This is unconscionable, and begs the this American?

And no one is questioning the need for America to fund PEPFAR!

CLICK HERE to read "THE INTERNATIONAL vs. NATIONAL DEBATE: Is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) international commitment to combating HIV/AIDS succeeding at the expense of those people living with the disease in the United States?"

Is PEPFAR is an unfit parent who feeds her neighbors as her own family goes hungry?

Through FY2012 under PEPFAR, U.S. taxpayers will have spent 46 billion to support this initiative. Is it wrong to think that the U.S. could have funneled some of that money over the past 9 years into domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives, such as treatment, prevention, research, and other services for PLWHA under the Ryan White Program? Increasingly, many PLWHAs are asking this very question!

Federal appropriations for the Ryan White Program FY2012 equate to $1.3 billion, and AIDS advocates are asking for an increase of $106 million just to maintain ADAP; though this would not be enough to end the ADAP wait-lists. An increase of $360 million is needed to maintain ADAP programs and fill the structural deficits that have built up over the last several years. Is 7.2 billion in taxpayer money appropriated under PEPFAR and $1.3 billion under the Ryan White program fair? Why would U.S. taxpayers, and especially American PLWHA not be outraged?

Further egregious, last week in an effort led by New York's junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 18 U.S. Senators sought to immunize the Global AIDS funding from cuts threatened by the impending showdown over the national budget and deficit committee. The letter is signed by Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Durbin (D-NY), Barbara Milkulski (D-MD), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden D-OR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Christopher Coons (D-DE).

Do they know that this is the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic in America? Are they aware of the domestic AIDS crisis? Are they aware that the impending funding cuts could put the lives of PLWHAs in America at risk? Are they aware of the rich history of AIDS in America and the advocates who marched...who protested...who fought for future generations; all the while watching dozens upon dozens of friends die, and they themselves on the brink of death?

So again, is it wrong for Americans living with HIV/AIDS to look in their own ‘backyards’ before looking overseas?

Inaction and silence WILL = death of countless PLWHA in America. Mr. President, 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS, their friends, family, and countless advocates; with one resounding voice they ask you to intervene in this crisis, the time to ACT is NOW!

Please sign the petition on requesting that the POTUS and Congress work together to divert 15-20 percent of PEPFAR funds to domestic HIV/AIDS programs:

Blog by Kevin Maloney, ADAP Advocacy Association member from Clifton Park, NY



Saturday, September 24, 2011

As goes ADAP, so goes Ryan White programs

In politics there is a saying, "As goes Maine, so goes the Nation" that dates back to 1888, stemming from an age-old saying used to describe the state's reputation as a bellwether state in presidential politics. That year, Maine voted for the Republican nominee Benjamin Harrison who won the presidency despite losing the popular vote. In more recent years, Maine's political status has changed, giving way to Missouri and Ohio. Using that analogy as a backdrop, witnessing the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) crumble as 8,785 people living with HIV/AIDS are denied access to their life-saving medications should cause alarm to anyone advocating for Ryan White programs.


During the 1990s when the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act was passed, it was done so with strong bipartisan support. In fact, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy - the liberal lion of the Senate - was joined by one of the most conservative Republicans to introduce the legislation, Sen. Orrin Hatch. Every reauthorization since has also enjoyed the same level of bipartisanship. But while certain aspects of the Ryan White law have struggled to garner consensus, often falling victim to the ideological divide, ADAP and its funding always served as the model of how the two political parties could work together. In many respects, ADAP served as the bellwether program of the Ryan White law.

President Bill Clinton worked with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to ensure ADAPs were adequately funded because both leaders understood the Return on Investment (ROI) from a public health perspective. From 1995 to 1999, federal funding for ADAPs fared relatively well, as ADAP funding increased from $51.9 million to $460.6 million. But the last major influx of funds occurred in 2003, when Congress approved an increase of nearly $100 million. Since then, however, ADAPs have been perpetually underfunded at the federal level.

In August 2003, ADAPs were facing a similar funding crisis, albeit not equal to the scale faced today. The ADAP Working Group published its White Paper, "The History and Status of the ADAP Funding Crisis; The Current ADAP Crisis status as of Month #5 of the FY ’03 Funded Program Year," in response to the crisis at the time when there were 509 people living with HIV/AIDS on ADAP waiting lists in 10 states. (1) It summarized ADAP's bellwether status very accurately:

"ADAP was generally well funded from FY ’96 through FY ’00 with active and open bi-partisan Congressional support. ADAP related crises did occur but tended to be a function of new programs, rapid scale up, State level resource needs, or local health care delivery issues. Underfunding on a serious nationwide federal level started in FY ’01 and continues." (2)

Fast forward to 2011, when ADAP waiting lists and other cost containment strategies are at record high levels. In fact, historically nothing compares to the crisis facing the nearly 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS being adversely impacted by the ongoing ADAP crisis. During the last "major" ADAP crisis, ADAP waiting lists only pushed the upward levels of 1,400+ on waiting lists. Now, there are just shy of 9,000 on waiting lists, approximately another 1,000 kicked off the program (via eligibility changes) and states like Ohio are toying with medical criteria, which was once taboo.

ADAP wasn't immune from internal bickering over how to solve the crisis, as some national HIV/AIDS organizations were hesitant to publicly challenge longtime leaders, despite their failure to solve the problem. "The Politics of ADAPs" (3) provides an excellent historical analysis on why the current ADAP crisis should cause alarm for HIV/AIDS advocates fighting for other important programs, such as prevention.

Think back to the struggles...and failures...over needle exchange programs, or abstinence only sex education. When HIV/AIDS advocates were desperately trying to fend off attacks on proven prevention strategies from the religious right, ADAP was receiving millions of dollars in new federal funding. So, ADAP's ongoing fight to secure as little as $101 million dollars despite the overwhelming evidence and history of bipartisan support is troublesome because if a "popular" HIV/AIDS program like ADAP is facing increasingly tough times, how can other "less popular" programs expect to make needed gains?

The ongoing debate over federal appropriations is evidence enough. For Fiscal Year 2012, ADAP funding increases could be as little as $15 million despite the escalating crisis. Meanwhile, most other HIV/AIDS programs could look at level funding, or even damaging spending cuts. (4)

Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, best summarized the ongoing plight facing domestic HIV/AIDS programs:

"While we appreciate Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin's effort to preserve existing programs, our Nation is not going to reduce new HIV infections or provide adequate care and treatment to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS without new resources. This is extremely disappointing since we have the drugs to keep people alive, the knowledge that treatment is prevention, along with a number of other tools that help prevent HIV, and the leadership by the Obama Administration as detailed in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Without the necessary resources, the goals of the Strategy will not be achieved, and thousands of more people in the United States will needlessly become infected with HIV." (5)

Until the HIV/AIDS community can find consensus on how to solve the ADAP crisis, it is hard to imagine how other important programs can receive the resources that they desperately need, too. As goes ADAP, so goes Ryan White programs.


(1) The ADAP Working Group, "The History and Status of the ADAP Funding Crisis; The Current ADAP Crisis status as of Month #5 of the FY ’03 Funded Program Year," August 2003, p. 1.
(2) The ADAP Working Group, "The History and Status of the ADAP Funding Crisis; The Current ADAP Crisis status as of Month #5 of the FY ’03 Funded Program Year," August 2003, p. 3.
(3) ACHIEVE, "The Politics of ADAP," Fall 2008, p. 11.
(4) U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, "Summary: FY12 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill," September 21, 2011.
(5) The AIDS Institute, "Senate Flat Funds Most Domestic HIV/AIDS Programs," September 22, 2011.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Day With HIV In America

POSITIVELY AWARE is once again spearheading its snapshot of HIV/AIDS called "A Day With HIV In America." Whether you’re negative or positive, live with HIV or live for someone with HIV, POSITIVELY AWARE's campaign is through the lens of a camera. It is the 2nd annual event, so get ready to show your smile!

On September 21st, grab your digital camera or smartphone and take a snapshot. Capture a moment of your everyday life. Each photo tells a story. Get in the picture, and tell your story.

The ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+) encourages people living with HIV/AIDS currently receiving their life-saving medications under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) to submit photos. Let's put a face on the ADAP program, especially since as of September 8th there were 9,066 people living with HIV/AIDS on ADAP waiting lists in 11 states.

Photo submissions will be posted on their site. Select pictures will be published in the November-December issue of POSITIVELY AWARE. Send your photo by September 26th to

To learn more, go to

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Time We Tweeted to President Obama

On Thursday, September 15th starting at 7:00am, President Obama will be put on notice that the ongoing crisis facing the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) is totally unacceptable. But this notice won't be sent via email, fax, snail mail or demonstration in front of the White House. So how will this message be sent, you ask?

The ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+) is taking a page out of the playbook from the "Arab Spring" protesters in order to launch its "ADAP Fall" social media campaign starting with a “Obama-ADAP Twitter Day.” The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about the growing ADAP waiting lists by leveraging one of the leading social media outlets. Twitter users are asked to direct their hashtag #ObamaADAP Tweets at President Obama using handle @whitehouse.

Ultimately, aaa+ and many other national, state and local HIV/AIDS organizations want the Obama Administration to reprogram funding from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services toward the Ryan White CARE Act and ADAP, specifically. President Obama did something similar last year, but the $25 million transfer wasn't nearly enough funding to make a noticeable dent in the escalating ADAP waiting lists.

Twitter users are asked to do the following on Thursday, September 15th starting anytime after 7:00am:

  • Send Tweets hourly;

  • Use Twitter hashtag #ObamaADAP in the same Tweet;

  • Direct Tweets at President Obama with handle @whitehouse; and

  • Encourage friends and colleagues to Tweet, too!

  • To view the aaa+ profile on Twitter, go to!/adapadvocacy.

    The goal on September 15th is to make hashtag #ObamaADAP trending on Twitter with ADAP-related tweets directed at President Obama by using handle @whitehouse. Some example tweets might include:

  • @whitehouse ADAP waiting lists continue to grow! We need your leadership President Obama to end #ObamaADAP crisis!

  • President Obama, please end the ADAP waiting lists! @whitehouse How long will you let this #ObamaADAP crisis last in the United States?

  • @whitehouse End ADAP Waiting Lists Now #ObamaADAP

  • As of September 1st, there were 9,298 individuals in 11 states on ADAP waiting lists, including Alabama with 211 individuals; Florida with 4,022 individuals; Georgia with 1,715 individuals; Idaho with 31 individuals; Louisiana with 1,056 individuals; Montana with 28 individuals; North Carolina with 340 individuals; Ohio with 59 individuals; South Carolina with 836 individuals; Utah with 50 individuals; and Virginia with 950 individuals.

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    “Out to Lunch – Be Back When Funding’s Gone!”


    For those of us living in the HIV/AIDS community, this is the annual refrain we’ve heard since the Ryan White Care Act was first authorized in 1990, and it is a refrain which we will likely continue to hear ad nauseum until most of us are long-since dead of old age. What is wonderful about the Ryan White Care Act is that it enabled an entire generation of first-round AIDS survivors access to treatments, medications, and medical services that were, up to that point, a high-priced pipe dream that led to a pine box surrounded by the tens of our friends who were left to arrange the funeral.

    I know that introduction sounds considerably morose – one might suggest that it is cynical; however, it is the constant repetition of the Funding Refrain that has lulled many of our national HIV/AIDS lobbying organizations into a persistent vegetative state. Pursuing additional funding on the national level (as opposed to the international level) has become a process of celebrating minor victories and scrambling to scoop up whatever scraps are thrown our way – and yet, despite these considerably minor victories in increased funding, still our local-level clinics, providers, and non-profits struggle to provide the services for which the national organizations claim they’re fighting.


    For twenty-one years we have watched these organizations squander our limited resources in exchange for highly paid executives, increasingly limited access to people who can actually help our cause, and depressingly minor victories. These groups have siphoned the money from our pockets for over two decades, always claiming that they are in dire straits, all the while playing the roll of Showershot Socialites, throwing lavish parties, a seemingly endless number of self-congratulatory awards ceremonies, and falling all over themselves to let us know that our dollars are going to good use; that we’re getting “unprecedented” access to officials sympathetic to our cause.

    To quote David Sedaris, “If you’re looking for sympathy, you can find it between “shit” and “syphilis” in the dictionary.

    It is time to face a stark reality – the funds are, indeed, drying up. More accurately, the funding was increased after remaining stagnant for nearly a decade, but that increase was transparently insufficient to keep up with a growing epidemic of new infections, longer life spans due to better treatments, and the inconvenient blessing that HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. This time, however, we are faced with a legislature who insists that whatever funds are added must be offset by cuts elsewhere, meaning that someone’s pet project is going to get its funding cut, and someone, somewhere is going to throw a hissy fit over the proposal.

    Unfortunately, the people throwing the hissy fit are those in the HIV/AIDS establishment. Despite the mounting evidence that the accepted and traditional methods of HIV lobbying are failing to net the results needed to sustain vital programs like Ryan White, ADAP, and HOPWA, these organizations continue to rely upon the brand names they acquired twenty and thirty years ago when they actually exhibited effective leadership and lobbying skills.

    What is more unfortunate is that the results of a decade of basically fruitless lobbying efforts (i.e. – inadequate funding) fall upon the local organizations struggling just to keep their doors open during a recession unlikely to end anytime soon for those making fewer than six figures. In Long Beach, CA, preliminary numbers for incoming donations to help provide vital services for clients have shown nearly a 50% drop over the past two years. The HOPWA program in Los Angeles County, designed to provide living assistance for those on a fixed income living with AIDS, has all but ground to a halt because Section 8 housing has not opened up for new applications in over two years. Rural clinics across the country are seeing their funding slashed as the limited resources are redirected to more densely populated (and often more ethnically diverse) areas of the state, leaving those with the least access to competent and quality health services with nowhere to turn.

    We live in unprecedented times…and that requires unprecedented measures. The time has come to reevaluate our collective approach to lobbying for our cause, and to recognize that we cannot rely on our traditional allies to help us if they are unwilling or unable to do so. It is time to come up with a new strategy, and to do so, we must face the new realities of 21st Century HIV/AIDS Funding:

    1.) The gay and minority communities are tapped out.

    There is only so much money we can continue to expect from a small percentage of affected communities, and their coffers are running on fumes. We need to branch out to incorporate others into our fight; we need to model ourselves off of the Breast Cancer campaign. They managed to take a silent killer that no one spoke about for most of the 20th century and turn it into the most profitable, best-funded example of great marketing, organization, and leadership in the healthcare community. Would Breast Cancer lay back and watch its funding get slashed? I think not.

    Breast Cancer has massive corporate sponsors like Major League Baseball – an entirely male organization that sports several prominent members who are survivors of Prostate Cancer (which saw nearly 10,000 more new cases in 2010 with a higher male mortality rate). Yet, still – Breast Cancer wins the day while Prostate Cancer stays in the shadows.

    Where are OUR corporate sponsors? For the most part, we have relied upon the pharmaceutical companies to provide us the sponsorship and ad space we need to get our messages out. That has to end.

    2.) We can no longer rely on the Democratic Party to be our staunch allies.

    Regardless of how many promises they make, initiatives they support, or awards we throw at them, the Democratic Party can no longer be counted upon to help us accomplish the goals necessary to maintain viable programs for low-income individuals over the long run. The 90s are over, and it’s high time that we stop pretending that they’re going to return.

    [Photo: AIDS Healthcare Foundation protesting then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as ADAP waiting lists exploded from 99 people living with HIV/AIDS to several thousand]

    Time and again, we’ve been duped into believing that the Democrats were going to fight in our name and help to better our circumstances, and due to either a lack of spines or the new political realities of the 21st Century, they lack both the will and the ability to get the job done. This means we must turn to other resources, and those cannot be obtained at an all-Dem fundraiser, cocktail party, or awards ceremony. They must be brought over to our side by showing them the realities of HIV/AIDS funding in their own districts; in their own hometowns.

    Republicans are responsible for the largest increase in U.S. international aid in the last thirty years. By comparison, the increase on the national level brought to us by the majority Democratic legislature paled so much that I am forced to admit (much to my chagrin) that the GOP has done better for HIV/AIDS in the last decade.

    3.) We need to create new allies out of old enemies.

    While the 80s and 90s engrained in our community the belief that the Democratic party would forever be our allies, there was and equal and opposite reaction for the Republican party. It is impossible for many of us to forget when many prominent GOP legislators stood before the houses of Congress to suggest that we be rounded up, sent to an island, and exterminated; that we be visibly tattooed to display to others that we had AIDS. The specter of shared history in Germany during World War II seemed to be coming back to haunt us.

    [Photo: Former California Republican Congressman Bob Dornan symbolized the anti-AIDS rhetoric coming from many within the Republican ranks during the 1980s and 1990s]

    Unfortunately, the GOP has for nearly forty years been held hostage by the Religious Reich – the Talibangelicals who refered to us as Sodomites, insisted that allowing us to live will exact God’s revenge on the world through AIDS, and stated that our disease is God’s punishment for our war against nature. It is disheartening that this movement still holds such a stranglehold over the most extreme elements of the GOP that even the most moderate candidate must skew his views drastically to the right simply to get nominated and elected.

    There is light at the end of that tunnel, however – an increasing number of studies and polls have shown that grip to be weakening, particularly with people under the age of 45. The younger generation of GOP activists, though we may not agree with their approach to fiscal governance, are more than understanding of our plight, and can become if not powerful, then at least new allies in our fight to maintain relevance.

    It is incumbent upon our community to welcome these new comrades into our fold – we must set aside our feuds and grudges, and stop holding the young responsible for the faults of the old. We must ensure that we make solid allies of them while we wait for their gerontocracy to die and for their influence to die with them.

    4.) Our message no longer resonates with the general public.

    Once again, the Breast Cancer lobby is a great example of how to make a disease that saw new cases in only .08% of the U.S. population in 2010 the largest money making health lobby in the world. They bring the message home to the American public by de-stigmatizing the disease and making it accessible. They’ve made it the “sexy cancer,” to use the words of a colleague of mine.

    We have done something similar. We’ve taken a chronic illness that once meant certain death and turned it into a manageable disease represented by muscular, beautiful models whose struggles with HIV led them down the path to Gold’s Gym. Gone are the wasted, lesion-ridden faces of the 80s and 90s; gone are the people who are less successful at fighting their disease, or whose strains are multi-drug resistant.

    We need a new marketing strategy – one that doesn’t hide the reality of the disease. The current strategy, while successful at making HIV acceptable, has lowered the national belief that funding for research, treatment, and social services is an imperative. Success stories work well when you’re trying to get people to get tested; tragedy brings in the dollars and cents.

    Ultimately, the choices are never going to be easy. How can we, the HIV/AIDS community, say to those running the national agenda that their service has been appreciated, but we’re just not that into them? There will be those who will be disenfranchised, and feelings will be hurt, but we cannot forget our core purpose: providing adequate, competent, and consistent care for those who are most in need.

    Blog by Marcus J. Hopkins, ADAP Advocacy Association member from Los Angeles, CA

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    ADAP Waiting Lists, Public Opinion Perspectives & Competing Ribbons

    In 1996, HIV/AIDS was ranked by the American people as the number one public health concern facing the nation. While anti-retroviral treatments were entering the world stage with a bang at the time, it was hard to overcome more than a decade characterized by AIDS ignorance, stigma and fear. Fast forward to 2010, Americans ranked Swine Flu as the most important public health concern...yet not a single person died of the illness last year in the United States. Despite thousands of AIDS-related deaths in 2010, HIV/AIDS ranked in the mid-20s among the public health concerns of the American people.

    Could the changing attitudes help explain why as of August 18th (2011), there were 9,201 people living with HIV/AIDS on waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) in twelve states? Could the lack of public concern be fueling insufficient federal funding, statewide cost containment strategies or rising drug prices and even the historic number of people being denied access to care and treatment?

    The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) just might have the answer!

    In June 2011, KFF released its "HIV/AIDS At 30: A Public Opinion Perspective" summarizing its eighth large-scale national survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS. The results should not come as any surprise.

    Key findings include:1
    • Black Americans, and particularly young blacks, express much higher levels of concern about HIV infection than whites.
    • Reported HIV testing rates are flat since 1997, including among some key groups at higher risk.
    • Thirty years into the epidemic, there is a declining sense of national urgency and visibility of HIV/AIDS.
    • At the same time, after nearly a decade of decline, the share of Americans who say they are personally "very concerned" about becoming infected ticked up for the first time in this year's survey.
    • Many Americans still hold attitudes that may stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS, but such reported attitudes have declined in recent years.
    • Despite continuing economic problems, more than half of Americans support increased funding for HIV/AIDS, and fewer than one in ten say the federal government spends too much in this area.
    • Media, which includes radio, television, newspapers and online sources, is the top information source on HIV across racial/ethnic groups and for younger and older adults alike.
    • Three-quarters of Americans could not name an individual who stands out as a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and no person who was mentioned makes it into double digits.
    For additional information about the excellent resources being made available by KFF, please visit their website:

    Obviously, Americans no longer view HIV/AIDS as a priority in the United States. Is there any other reason to explain why the number of people living with HIV/AIDS on ADAP waiting lists in this country has exploded from 99 in May 2009 to 9,201 to August 2011? That's a 9,193% increase!!!

    Since the late 1990s, HIV/AIDS funding has been hit with a double-whammy...

    The federal commitment to domestic HIV/AIDS funding for Ryan White programs, including ADAP, has struggled to keep pace with demand and the proven science and cost-effectiveness of prevention, care and treatment over the past decade. Yet, since 2003 domestic HIV/AIDS programs have taken a back seat to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a five-year $15 billion plan to fund AIDS care and prevention in the developing world. According to the Center for Global Development, the United States has disbursed $18.8 billion via PEPFAR since its inception,2 and an additional $5.5 billion is appropriated for FY2009, representing 1/6 of the total State and Foreign operations appropriations.3 In comparison, Ryan White funding (including ADAPs) was appropriated at $2.02 billion in FY2004, $2.04 billion in FY2005, $2.04 billion in FY2006, $2.11 billion in 2007, and $2.14 billion in FY2008.4 The most recent Omnibus spending package approved by Congress included $2.24 billion for FY2009, which means that the United States has spent one-third (1/3) less on services and supports funded under Ryan White than was sent to combat AIDS abroad! Unfortunately, funding in FY2010 continued that trend. That's whammy #1!

    The Red Ribbon was once a widely-recognized symbol of awareness and hope for people effected, and affected by HIV/AIDS. Wearing the Red Ribbon was likened to a first place ribbon in the fight against the disease...but now, that ribbon has fallen behind to competing colors. Whether it is the Pink Ribbon for breast cancer, Blue Ribbon for prostate cancer or the Jigsaw Ribbon for autism, numerous other colors have relegated the AIDS Ribbon to the back of the pack. For example, cancer research received $1.3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for spending by the National Cancer Institute in FY 2009 and FY 2010.5 Ironically, despite repeated pleas by some Members of Congress and the broader HIV/AIDS community, no such stimulus funding was devoted to alleviate the ongoing ADAP crisis. That's whammy #2!

    The paradigm that led to this one-two punch needs to change. Otherwise, ADAP waiting lists will continue to grow...leaving a growing number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States without the timely and appropriate access to care and treatment. It starts with public perception...

    1st Place

    2nd Place

    3rd Place

    Last Place

    Isn't it time for HIV/AIDS to compete again?


    1 Kaiser Family Foundation, "HIV/AIDS At 30: A Public Opinion Perspective," June 2011.
    4 National Association of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, “FY2004 – FY2008 Appropriations for the Ryan White Program”, February 2008
    5 National Cancer Institute, "Cancer Research Funding - Key Points," June 2011

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Why the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus Needs to Rise Above Partisanship

    The U.S. House of Representatives recently filed paperwork to form the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus ((formerly the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS) ). The Caucus is being spearheaded by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) "to examine methods by which the United States can maintain global leadership in the response to the epidemic." During the August recess, Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents (YOU) about why it is important that they join the Caucus...especially Republican lawmakers.

    Not simply because the Republicans control the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but more importantly because HIV/AIDS is NOT a partisan issue. Since the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) doesn't ask people it is about to infect about their political party affiliation, it is incumbent upon our elected officials to combat HIV using the very same standard. Partisanship needs to be left out of the equation altogether.

    At this very moment, Representatives Lee, McDermott and Franks are soliciting their House colleagues to join the Caucus, but they need to hear from people living with HIV/AIDS! Without a strong and consistent outcry from the community, many lawmakers might be left with the false impression that HIV/AIDS isn't a priority for the 112th Congress. Unfortunately, thus far only Democrats have joined the Caucus (although numerous GOP offices have been targeted and most likely will be joining).

    Unless more House Republicans join the Caucus and together with their Democratic colleagues identify and support viable solutions, it [the Caucus] will be doomed to failure. It is especially critical that long-time GOP lawmakers with established records on HIV/AIDS join the Caucus. They include, just to name a few, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Rep. Mary Bono Mack (CA), Rep. Frank Wolf (VA) or Rep. Kay Granger (TX).

    With so many issues facing the country, unfortunately HIV/AIDS has been relegated to the back burner in many respects. The Caucus represents an excellent opportunity to change this paradigm. In the 112th Congress, the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus will explore five thematic areas:

    Implementation of the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy;
    Financing for Bilateral and Multilateral HIV/AIDS programs;
    The state of HIV/AIDS research;
    The role of Faith-Based Organizations; and
    The 2012 International AIDS Conference to be held in Washington, D.C.

    While efforts to initiate the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus should undoubtably be commended, it shouldn't be overlooked that this is being done at the very same time a record number of people living with HIV/AIDS are languishing on waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs). So...any Congressional effort to address HIV/AIDS-related issues should first focus on the domestic crisis facing 9,217 ADAP-eligible patients who are being forced to go without their life-saving medications, as well as the hundreds more who have been kicked off their State's ADAP by eligibility restrictions.

    Is it rational to discuss research when thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS are being denied access to care and treatment? Does it make any sense for lawmakers elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by people living in the United States to address issues with an international focus without first taking immediate steps to alleviate the ongoing ADAP crisis? Doing so would only lessen credibility surrounding the Caucus' activities. There are people right here, right now who desperately need their elected officials to provide leadership, regardless of political party.

    That is why the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus needs to be just that...bipartisan!

    Editor's Note: When contacting your Member of Congress about the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, tell them that to join the Caucus or for more information, please contact Jirair Ratevosian (Lee), Andrew Adair (McDermott) or Stephanie Hammond (Franks).

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Housing Works: Super Committee Republicans Could Jeopardize AIDS Programs

    The following blog is being shared compliments of Housing Works. CLICK HERE to view the original post.

    From top left: Republicans Kyl, Portman, Toomey, Upton, Hensarling and Camp

    Congress has just finalized the roster for the super committee—the group of lawmakers charged with charting much of the country’s fiscal future—meaning it’s time to examine how the committee’s decisions could shape AIDS programs in the U.S.

    So far, we know this: The committee includes two of the most fiscally conservative Republicans in Congress, Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Jeb Hensarling. It also includes Sen. Jon Kyl, one of just three senators to vote against the Ryan White CAREReauthorization Act in 1995, legislation that extended funds for people with HIV/AIDS and their families.

    “[The committee’s] decisions could have a profound impact on our programming for years to come,” said Ronald Johnson, vice president for policy and advocacy at AIDS United. “If deficit reduction is completely made up of spending cuts, that increases the possibility that there will be less money available for HIV-related programs, health care, and the safety net as a whole.”

    The 12-person committee is charged with trimming the country’s deficit by $1.5 million during the next decade. The group will have few limits as to what it can do to reduce the deficit, meaning changes and cuts to programs critical to people living with HIV/AIDS will be on the table.

    It’s unlikely that the committee will demand a reduction to a specific program like the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Instead, larger decisions—like a cap on non-discretionary funding—would shrink the pool of money available to all programs, including money for ADAP, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program, and the Ryan White program.

    The committee can also make alterations to structure and funding for Medicaid and Medicare, and any changes will affect the growing number of people living with HIV/AIDS who depend them.

    “The Democrats that have been named are defenders of our programs,” said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director at theAIDS Institute in Washington, D.C. “[Sen. Max] Baucus, [Sen. John] Kerry, and [Sen. Patty] Murray have all stood up for low-income people. But the Republicans that have been selected are all fiscal conservatives.”

    Several Republican committee members, including Toomey and Henserlang, have already said they will focus on reducing the deficit by making deep cuts—instead of exploring new revenue options.

    “I want to see people who are going to defend the safety net, who realize that balancing the budget on the backs of poor people is not going to be a successful strategy,” said Christine Campbell, Housing Works’ vice president of national advocacy and organizing. “And when these 12 look at Medicaid and Medicare, it’s got to be from the perspective of reform and not just cuts.”

    The super committee:

    Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan
    Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
    Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas
    Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona
    Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
    Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio

    Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland
    Rep. Xavier Becerra of California
    Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina
    Sen. Patty Murray of Washington
    Sen. Max Baucus of Montana
    Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts

    Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.