The Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the disbursement of federal Ryan White AIDS funds, has rejected a contract between the city of Norfolk, Va., and a local pharmacy to provide antiretroviral drugs to low-income area residents, The [Norfolk] Virginian-Pilot reports. Bayview Plaza Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in the city that handles Ryan White program participants, but HRSA rejected the city's contract with the pharmacy, claiming Bayview charges too much for the medications. City officials have told Bayview to stop filling anti-HIV medication prescriptions for Ryan White clients while it comes up with a contingency plan. HIV-positive people in the region can still get access to anti-HIV drugs through the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program but will have to qualify for the program before the medications will be disbursed, Norfolk health officials say. Nada Kawwass, an assistant city attorney, said government officials are still in negotiations with HRSA over the contract.
Norfolk has made headlines several times during the past two years for its difficulty in providing treatment and care for HIV-positive people. The city has one of the worst records in the nation for using federal AIDS money; as many as 900 low-income HIV-positive residents are not receiving care despite nearly $1 million in unspent money being available for treatment and support programs. AIDS funds management in the city has changed hands three times over the past five years. Government officials earlier this month decided to hand over management of federal Ryan White grants to the Planning Council, a private nonprofit group. A contract dispute between city officials and clinic doctors at the Eastern Virginia Medical School also resulted in the temporary closing for several weeks of the clinics, which provide care for about 1,200 HIV-positive area residents.