Despite an increase in national funding, Idaho continues to have a waiting list for low-income HIV and AIDS patients who need help paying for prescription drugs. "These are lifesaving medications," said Lisejean Freed with the North Idaho AIDS Coalition in Coeur d'Alene. "On my caseload I have 37 clients in the five northern counties, and probably eight of those people are on a waiting list."
"As of the end of March, we have 49 clients on the waiting list in Idaho," said Anne Williamson, the STD/AIDS program manager for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Though Idaho got part of a $20 million one-time federal initiative--giving 41 of those patients some temporary access to the drugs---that cash is expected to run out in September, Williamson said. "Right now we do not have the funding available to bring those clients into our active program. The funding has not kept up with the demand," Williamson said. "It's very critical. It could mean individuals living with HIV having to go without lifesaving medications."
Idaho has only 92 people participating in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, Williamson said. The state has a low rate of HIV infection, with only 740 reported living cases of HIV or AIDS in the state at the end of 2004, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare. But the fact there are few cases may hurt the state's federal funding.
"Funding formulas are based on reported cases of AIDS, and because Idaho is a low-prevalence rural state, we don't get large increases when funding is spread nationally," Williamson said. "If Congress is not willing to make the commitment to appropriately fund the program, it will be up to individual states to step up to the plate and do their fair share."
Earlier this month U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt awarded 59 grants worth more than $1 billion to all states and nine U.S. territories for their ADAPs. Idaho's 2005 grant was for $965,496. Of that, $500,000 was based on the number of people living with AIDS in Idaho, $581 was allocated to bolster care and services for minorities living with AIDS, and $464,915 will help the 92 people enrolled in the drug assistance program buy anti-HIV drugs. That works out to about $5,050 per person in the program. Williamson said the state kicked in $177,500 to ADAP for 2005, but that still won't be enough to cover the entire annual cost of more than $15,000 per person. The state will use some of the $500,000 allocated for direct services to help buy the medications. (AP)