More on a story we've been following at Rod 2.0. The Republican dominated legislature in South Carolina has proposed to cut its entire HIV/AIDS budget, including funding to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAP helps low-income HIVers, many of whom are who are unemployed or uninsured, pay for their medications. Those in the program are disproportionately black, many of the men are gay or bisexual.
The agency that administers South Carolina's ADAP is concerned about the availability of life-saving medications in critical counties, reports The Times and Democrat.
The Edisto Health District, which serves Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties, has one of the highest rates in the state of people infected with HIV/AIDS. With state appropriations to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program facing an estimated $4.1 million shortfall, many local health and community leaders are concerned about the availability of critical medications for those living with HIV/AIDS. S.C. HIV Care Crisis Task Force reports that the annual funding need based on current patient load is $25.2 million for medications, with the current ADAP budget standing at only $21.1 million.
The South Carolina HIV/AIDS Care Crisis Task Force reports that there are 1,163 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the District. Eighty-five percent of that population is black. ADAP serves 233 people in that district. "I received ADAP funding assistance back in 1991, but back then, it was easier to get into the program than it is now," one man said. "It was a good thing, because I really couldn't afford my medication. The job insurance wouldn't cover it because of the price tag, and my concern now is how the younger generation who are being diagnosed HIV-positive are going to survive if they can't get the medication that they need."
The good news: While the proposed budget provides no state-based funding, ADAP will continue to run on $2.2 million from the federal government via Medicaid. But that means it will serve only a fraction of its caseload.
Meanwhile: More than 700 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, and more than 100 new ADAP applications arrive each month. And in South Carolina, just like many states across the South, that means black gay and bi men will be hardest hit. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, black men account for about half of persons recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in South Carolina. The vast majority, some 70 percent of those cases, are "attributed to sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM)."
Our latest article for Black AIDS Weekly, "Recession Forces States to Slash AIDS Drug Assistance Programs", surveys then nationwide trend toward cutting ADAP funding. HIV positive black gay men discuss what their life would be like without ADAP. Read the full article HERE.