Tampa: AIDS Protesters to Blast Senator Nelson’s Continuing Silence on Hard-hit AIDS Drug Program

Florida—with Nation’s Third Largest HIV/AIDS Case Load—Has Over 1,000 People on a Waiting List to Access State’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP); Protesters Will Ask Senator Nelson to Press Senate’s Democratic Leadership for National Fix to Resolve Funding Issues for Lifesaving Drug Program

TAMPA, Fla.--()--While Florida continues to add up to 300 people each month to its waiting list for its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), scores of AIDS activists, care providers and patients will gather at a protest and press briefing hosted by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Friday, August 13th at 12:00 Noon outside the Tampa offices of United States Senator Bill Nelson (D, FL). The protesters will blast Senator Nelson for his silence on the AIDS drug program issue while so many of his constituents are wait-listed and denied access to lifesaving drugs in Florida. The protesters will also ask Nelson to press his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Leadership in Washington to resolve the ADAP funding crisis that is disproportionately affecting Floridians.

WHAT:  

“Sen. Nelson: Save ADAP!” Protest and Press Conference in TAMPA

 
WHEN:

FRIDAY, August 13th – 12:00 Noon

 
WHERE: Senator Bill Nelson’s Tampa Offices

Sam Gibbons Federal Court House, 801 N Florida Avenue, Tampa FL 33602

 
WHO:

Michael Kahane, AHF Bureau Chief, Southern Region

Liza Nash, Director of Disease Management, AHF-Positive Healthcare

Priscilla McCarthy, AIDS advocate

Joe Dobson, AIDS advocate

Lydia Gresham, AHF Director of Operations, Southern Bureau

Crisaida Mendez, Statewide Enrollment Coordinator, AHF-Positive Healthcare

and people living with HIV/AIDS, advocates, health care providers, community leaders
 
CONTACTS:

Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Dept., (323) 791-5526;

Liza Nash, AHF-Positive Healthcare, (954) 494-5016

B-ROLL: Protestors carrying banners and signs, chanting slogans such as “Save ADAP Now!”

On June 1st, Florida became the twelfth state—and the first high-prevalence state, as it ranks third in the nation for the number of reported cases—to institute a waiting list for patients to receive lifesaving AIDS drugs. As of August 5th, there were 1059 Floridians on the state’s ADAP waiting list out of a total of 2,718 people on waiting lists in 13 states.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is a Federal/State program that pays for life-saving AIDS drugs for low-income Americans. Nationwide, ADAPs serve over 165,000 people, accounting for one third of people on AIDS treatment in the U.S. Unfortunately, the need for these programs expands every year, as more and more people become infected and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS; each year thousands of newly diagnosed HIV patients turn to ADAPs because they cannot afford their medicines.

“Senator Nelson has yet to say anything at all publicly about the AIDS drug funding crisis wreaking havoc across this country and that as of last week has grown and threatens the lives of over 1,000 Floridians,” said Michael Kahane, AHF Bureau Chief, Southern Region. “We will call on Senator Nelson to speak out and ask his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Leadership to resolve this public health crisis, which is disproportionately affecting his own Florida constituents. Senate Democrats including Nelson could support an existing bill—S. 3401—or they can find many other ways to appropriate and allocate the $101 million still needed to address the nation’s ADAP crisis.”

To address the crisis at the federal level, Senators Burr, Coburn and Enzi introduced S. 3401 in June. S.3401, known as the ACCESS ADAP Act, would provide $126 million in unobligated stimulus funds to eliminate waiting lists through Fiscal Year 2010; however, the bill has failed to gain the support of Congress or the Obama administration.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that $25 million would be re-allocated to state ADAPs for Fiscal Year 2010. This amount is simply insufficient to cover the need—far short of the $126 million many AIDS experts say is needed—to address the programs’ problems and neglects to take into account future uncertainty regarding budget cuts or the rates at which waiting lists are growing.

“2,700 Americans are now on waiting lists for lifesaving AIDS medications—more than one-thousand of whom are from Florida—yet Democratic leaders in Washington like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Nelson remain silent, blithely ignoring the crisis hoping it will somehow go away,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Any senator can attach an amendment to almost any piece of legislation; it should really not be so hard to fix this ADAP crisis if Democrats like Senator Nelson and Speaker Pelosi truly wanted to help people with AIDS get the medications they need to survive.”

“Given that the cost to provide AIDS medications is roughly $10,000 per patient, per year—the $25 million in additional funding proposed by HHS would barely be enough to cover the more than 2,700 people who are already on waiting lists nationwide—without taking into account new patients enrolling and further state budget cuts,” said Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Nash, Director of Disease Management for AHF-Positive Healthcare. “Such waiting lists can also disrupt the medical care of people who may already be on treatment via ADAP, but for some bureaucratic or administrative reason have fallen off or been bumped from the roster of those eligible to participate in the program. Treatment interruptions, other than those which are medically prescribed, can have devastating consequences for people living with HIV/AIDS.”

According to an article in the South Florida Gay News, Health Dept. Unveils New Plans for HIV/AIDS (July 13, 2010 by Jarrett Terrill) Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents Florida’s 20th District in the House of Representatives which includes Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, recently sent an email to her colleagues in Washington DC in a plea to join her in support of an increase to HIV/AIDS funding: “…Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz sees where both federal and state governments have fallen down on the job when it comes to ADAP funding. ‘Federal funding has not kept up with growing demand, and state budget cuts have resulted in funding reductions,’ she explained… ‘Some states are even removing current beneficiaries from their program,’ concluded Wasserman Schultz in her email plea to the rest of Congress. ‘Clearly, we must address this situation. Without immediate attention and additional resources the situation will rapidly become even worse.’”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and services to more than 139,000 individuals in 23 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific region and Eastern Europe. www.aidshealth.org

In FLORIDA, AHF serves more than 15,000 Floridians living with HIV/AIDS through a variety of programs, including free HIV testing and prevention programs; HIV/AIDS health care centers located in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Jacksonville, eight AHF Pharmacies located throughout the state, a statewide disease management program; and its Positive Healthcare Managed Care program.

Contacts

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Ged Kenslea, AHF Director of Communications
Cell: (323) 791-5526, Office: (323) 308-1833
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
Liza Nash
Director of Disease Management,
AHF-Positive Healthcare
Cell: (727) 482-3849
elizabeth.nash@aidshealth.org

Release Summary

Tampa: AIDS Protesters to Blast Senator Nelson’s Silence on Hard-hit AIDS Drug Assistance Program. FL, with Nation’s 3rd Largest AIDS Case Load, Has Over 1,000 People on a Wait List for HIV Drugs

Contacts

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Ged Kenslea, AHF Director of Communications
Cell: (323) 791-5526, Office: (323) 308-1833
gedk@aidshealth.org
or
Liza Nash
Director of Disease Management,
AHF-Positive Healthcare
Cell: (727) 482-3849
elizabeth.nash@aidshealth.org