Alabama's HIV Commission is asking the state legislature to allocate $5 million, up from $1.76 million, for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to help treat the more than 300 low-income, mostly minority patients who are on its waiting list. The request by the commission's chair, Rep. Laura Hall, was made last week and is supported by the legislative Black Caucus, which is making the funding issue a priority this session. Thirty to 40 new HIV patients are added to the waiting list--already the nation's longest--every month, and the commission anticipates the list will include more than 500 patients by next fiscal year.
Last fiscal year, the legislature cut ADAP funding from $2.9 million to $1.76 million. The federal Ryan White CARE Act provides $9 million for Alabama's ADAP, bringing the state's AIDS program funding up to a total of $13 million annually. But in order to maintain federal support, each year the state has to prove that it spent as much on HIV programs as in the preceding year. Last year, Alabama documented money spent on prison treatments and therefore remained eligible to receive federal funding despite the cutback. But another year of cuts to HIV and AIDS programs could jeopardize federal funding and ultimately eliminate ADAP, said Hall. And while Hall admits that $5 million in funding is unlikely during Alabama's budget crunch, ADAP could cope if last year's funding of $2.9 million were restored.
Alabama's ADAP provides HIV/AIDS treatment to 1,342 uninsured low-income HIV patients at a cost of about $10,500 annually. Each untreated patient would cost the state $100,000 each year, according to an Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield estimate. Though African-Americans comprise only one-quarter of Alabama's population, 70% of the state's estimated 12,000 HIV cases are African-American.