Georgia's Department of Human Resources is considering cutting state funding to the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program by $1.5 million in 2004, a move that would force hundreds of clients out of the program, which provides low-cost anti-HIV medications to low-income state residents, the Southern Voice reports. Department officials, faced with budget deficits, are considering a plan to reduce state support to the ADAP from $13.88 million to about $12.4 million in 2004. AIDS activists say the cut would force at least 438 of the program's 4,545 clients out of the program in 2004, with another 556 removed in 2005 if a proposal by Gov. Sonny Perdue for each government department to cut spending by 5% in 2005 is enacted.
"This is a horrendous prospect that will cause great damage to people's health and could jeopardize the longevity of people who need this program," Jeff Graham, executive director of AIDS Survival Project, told Southern Voice. ADAP officials say that if the cuts are approved, they will try to make the program more cost-efficient to avoid removing large numbers of clients from the program, but they fear that even large-scale restructuring will not be enough to prevent some ADAP clients from losing access to lifesaving anti-HIV medications.
The Department of Human Resources is set to study the funding cuts next week. If approved, they would go to Perdue's office for inclusion in his final budget proposal, which will be forwarded to state lawmakers in January for consideration.