About 800 low-income HIV-positive Americans are currently on waiting lists to access free or low-cost HIV antiretroviral medications through state-run AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, according to officials attending a one-day ADAP meeting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. The waiting lists--and other restrictions like tightened financial eligibility requirements and reductions in the number of drugs offered--have been implemented because of strained budgets, higher drug prices, and escalating demand for the programs as HIV-positive people live longer due to successful treatments.
As of January, 15 states had enacted ADAP restrictions, and several others are considering waiting lists or capping enrollments to deal with budget shortfalls. "We're about to fall into a major crisis" if the trend continues, said Jose Zuniga, president and CEO of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, which organized the meeting. Bill Arnold, director of the ADAP Working Group, says AIDS activists need to look at a variety of solutions to the funding crisis, including ways to negotiate lower prices for anti-HIV drugs and lobbying efforts to increase federal and state spending on the programs. "If the trends continue, a whole bunch of people are not going to be treated, and those people are going to crash into other parts of the health care system," he says. "The patients do not go away."