Arizona health officials say hundreds of low-income people with HIV/AIDS could lose access to anti-HIV medications if state lawmakers adopt a Republican-backed budget proposal that would cut funding for Arizona's AIDS Drug Assistance Program by half. The budget calls for an allocation of just $500,000 to the ADAP, down from about $1 million this year. "This is one that is really amazing they would consider cutting, given the severe side effects of the illness," said Leslie Schwalbe, the state Department of Health Service's deputy director. "Those individuals would lose pharmaceutical treatment, and it would seriously endanger their lives."
State health officials said ADAP funding is critical because it helps people who have no other means to pay for medication that can cost individuals $8,000-$15,000 a year. Many of the 780 people currently enrolled in the program are employed, but they do not make enough to pay for the drugs or private health insurance.
The funding cut is part of an overall budget deficit-reduction plan spearheaded by Republicans to eliminate the state's estimated $1 billion deficit in the coming year. But health officials say cutting the ADAP will provide little savings to the state because many HIV-positive people will end up requiring much more expensive hospital and emergency care due to the development of AIDS-related complications. "The bottom line is saving $500,000 is going to come out someplace else because those patients are going to get sick because they can't get the drugs," said Rose Conner, assistant director for public health services at the Department of Health Service.