National News

Arizona Health Officials: Budget Could Cost AIDS Patients

May 15, 2003

Arizona health officials say hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS could lose life-sustaining medications should the legislative Republicans' budget be adopted. Lawmakers plan to cut funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in half -- a $500,000 reduction. "This is one that is really amazing they would consider cutting, given the severe side effects of the illness. Those ... individuals would lose pharmaceutical treatment, and it would seriously endanger their lives," said Leslie Schwalbe, the state Department of Health Service's deputy director.

State health officials said ADAP is critical because it helps people who have no other means to pay for medication that can cost $8,000-$15,000 a year. Many of the 780 people enrolled in the program statewide work, but they do not make enough to pay for the drugs or private insurance. "If I wasn't on the program, there would be no way I could afford the medicine," said Donna Dias of Scottsdale, who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1993.

As lawmakers grapple with a projected $1 billion deficit, ADAP is one of many health care programs targeted for reductions. "Our hands are tied," said Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "There's only so much money we can control."

Health department officials, however, say that cutting ADAP will ultimately provide little savings to the state. Without adequate state funding, Arizona risks losing federal money and incurring other costs for patient care. "The bottom line is saving $500,000 is going to come out someplace else because those patients are going to get sick because they can't get the drugs," said Rose Conner, assistant director for public health services at DHS.

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Adapted from:
Associated Press

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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