Proposed federal budget holds good news and bad for AIDS patients

While Republicans and Democrats in Congress wrangle over a continuing resolution to keep the federal government working, HIV/AIDS activists are bracing for cuts and discussing president Obama’s proposed 2012 budget.

An AIDS Institute press release last week praised Obama’s plan:

The budget President Obama proposed yesterday for fiscal year 2012 maintains his Administration’s commitment to domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs, and proposes increases for domestic AIDS medications and HIV prevention, along with research at the National Institutes of Health.

“While the proposed funding levels are far from what is needed to provide the necessary care and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS or to significantly reduce the number of new infections, The AIDS Institutes appreciates the budget requests and now urges the Congress to show a similar level of support” said Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute.

Joey Terrill, domestic testing manager for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, says he credits the administration for the proposed increases in the 2012 budget, but also says they don’t go far enough.

Terrill says that funds requested for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides HIV/AIDS drugs for low-income patients, still would not keep the program sustainable. The program is facing a funding crisis. There are now over 6,200 people on Drug Assistance Program waiting lists nationwide.

Terrill says that in 2010 the Obama Administration authorized $25 million more for the Drug Assistance Program; AIDS organizations had asked for $126 million. That left a $101 million gap. The $80 million increase included in the 2012 budget request is already short of what was needed for this year.

When asked about White House data that says proposed 2012 funding for the Drug Assistance Program would cover 13,000 more patients, The AIDS Institute’s Carl Schmid says that the White House’s proposed 2012 funding would help, but will not do away with the waiting list. The money is still not enough, according to Schmid, mostly because the number of patients needing assistance grows each year.

According to Terrill, in 2000 the federal government covered about 70 percent of Drug Assistance Program expenditures; in the last 10 years that has decreased to about 50 percent. That 20 percent drop has been picked up by the states, which have created cost containment measures to keep the program available.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and The AIDS Institute say that House Republicans have proposed a $25 million cut to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in their continuing resolution. “If that were to pass, it would be a nightmare,” Terrill says.

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