AIDS organizations around California have responded with extreme concern to the new budget proposal offered up by Gov. Gray Davis on Friday, with some saying proposed budget cuts could be devastating for HIV-positive state residents. Although funding for most HIV/AIDS efforts in the state was not cut as severely as had been feared in Davis's effort to eliminate a $34 billion budget deficit, activists and advocates worry that changes to California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program could hamper access to anti-HIV drugs for many Californians.
Funding for the state's ADAP actually is $9 million higher in the new budget, but $7.2 million of that will come from ADAP member copayments for drugs that to date had been provided free of charge. Under Davis's budget proposal, people with incomes of more than 200% of the federal poverty level would be required to make a copayment of $25-$35 per prescription. People earning between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty level would be required to make copayments totaling between about $1,300 and $1,800 per year for anti-HIV drug cocktails.
"We appreciate the priority the governor is giving to HIV/AIDS during the state's budget crisis, but instead of deep reductions on grossly overpriced medications, this plan digs deep into the pockets of the poor people with AIDS to pay those profits," said Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "These cuts move in the wrong direction." Rebecca Isaacs, interim executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, offered a more dire prediction: "If ADAP copays are implemented, our HIV-positive clients will have to choose between life-saving medications and food and rent."
California lawmakers will begin debating Davis's budget proposal later this month.