Houston AIDS activists are set to travel to the Texas capitol in Austin on January 16 to protest possible cuts to the Texas HIV Medication Program, the main source of HIV medications for thousands of HIV-positive state residents, the Houston Voice reports. The program, which is Texas's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, has a projected $7 million budget shortfall in fiscal 2003. Lawmakers are required by state law to balance the program's budget and are considering a proposal to tighten financial eligibility requirements to those earning 140% of the federal poverty level, or about $12,400 per year. The program's cutoff level is currently 200% of the poverty level.
Activists plan to lobby lawmakers to wait until federal appropriations for the program are announced before changing the eligibility requirements. If approved, the new requirements would take effect for new clients in 30 days, with current clients given six months to reapply or find other assistance. Activists say more than 1,000 people in Houston alone will lose access to HIV antiretrovirals if the proposed changes are approved.