Over 7,000 people are waiting for life saving HIV/AIDS medications!
On this the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic our country is at a perlious time in the fight against HIV/AIDS. ADAP and other HIV/AIDS programs across the country are being reduced, threatened to be eliminated, and states and US territories are looking at changing elegibility to qualify for these programs.
PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) are being put on wait-lists to receive life saving medications, and others have been cut off from their medications. We are facing the largest public health crisis since the epidemic began 30 years ago.
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I write to you today as a fellow American, and one of 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS. On the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic our country is facing a perilous time in the fight against HIV/AIDS. You Mr. President have an opportunity to END AIDS as we know it while you are in office, however; today over 7,000 are Americans waiting to receive lifesaving HIV medications (this number has grown from 99 people in June 2009). We are facing public health crisis, unseen since the epidemic began. The weak economy has crippled state and federal budgets that pay into ADAP; the government program that provides life-sustaining antiretroviral drugs to people with HIV/AIDS who cannot afford them. In addition, prevention initiatives and other supportive services such as HOPWA funds have dried up in communities across the Nation.
Further, many states have employed cost containment strategies, such as reduced formularies, lowered eligibility levels, client cost sharing, or program enrollment caps. These strategies have dis-enrolled individuals who would have previously qualified (ref: nastad.org).
Without reliable access to the medications, which cost patients in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program an average of $12,000-$15,000 a year, people with HIV are more likely to develop full-blown AIDS, transmit the virus and require expensive hospitalizations, and die.
Earlier in the year CDC guidelines were changed suggesting those newly infected begin treatment earlier, rather than later. Further, On May 12th, 2011 the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led an international study that shows early treatment with antiretroviral therapy prevents HIV transmission. The result of the study was that those taking ARV were 96 percent less likely to pass on the disease than those who didn’t take ARV. This critical new finding convincingly demonstrates that early treatment of infected individuals can have a major impact on the spread of the epidemic.
As we are being told in national, state, and local campaigns to get tested and to know our status; in the same breath, those testing positive are being told they cannot be helped. People are sent away with their name on a wait-list to receive antiretroviral medicine, and HOPING they will be called. These are Americans with no insurance or inadequate insurance that cannot afford the highly expensive drugs. These are Americans laid off from their job and who have to choose between paying for food or for life saving medication. This is not the American way.
In the 80’s our government did nothing to recognize the AIDS problem. It wasn’t until individuals, while watching dozens upon dozens of friends and loved ones die, and they themselves on the brink of death that a movement began to recognize AIDS and to demand treatment and services for those infected. If full funding for ADAP and other vital HIV/AIDS services is not restored then we WILL have flashback to the 80’s; people dying. This time, not because we have no medicine to treat the disease, but because we don’t have the funding to do so.
Mr. President, you re-authorized the Ryan White care act on October 30th, 2009. I watched on July 14th, 2010 when you talked about the National HIV/AIDS strategy (a speech that spoke to me profoundly). I listened encouraged, hopeful, and with enthusiasm. The strategy set ambitious goals of reducing new infections by 25 percent over the next five years; getting treatment for 85 percent of patients within three months of their diagnosis; and increasing education about the virus, even in communities with low rates of infection. You said you were committed to focusing the public's attention on ending the DOMESTIC HIV epidemic.
Without immediate action on behalf of your administration and congress we will not meet the above goals, and people WILL die without these medications. Action is needed now in order to avert deaths, and an impending public health calamity with widening health disparities in communities across the country.
The undersigned and I ask that your administration work with congress to re-double efforts in order to live up to your commitments set forth in the re-authorizing of the Ryan White Care act and speaking on the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS strategy. Please live up to your promise on re-focusing the nation’s attention on the domestic HIV epidemic.
We ask for a public reply acknowledging the AIDS Crisis in America and solutions your administration are proposing to end this crisis.
“Voices in unity strengthening community”