Utah’s largest AIDS and HIV assistance program to help obtain medications and other services is closing its services to new applicants, said Mike Lowe, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program administrator.
The program, which is funded by the Ryan White Part B funds from the federal government, received less funding than expected and in order to compensate for the budget shortfalls, no new applicants are being accepted for now, Lowe said.
Currently, there are about 475 participants in the program that helps provide funds for medications, which can cost HIV-positive and AIDS patients thousands of dollars a month, Lowe said.
“I don’t know and wouldn’t even try to guess when the program will open again for new participants,” Lowe said.
However, an appeal is being made to the Health Resource and Service Administration and if more funds are obtained, the program might be able to start accepting applicants sometime in the near future, Lowe said.
“We should know about those funds by June and we will have another reassessment of the funding next month,” Lowe said. “We hope to be able to open the program again with the HRSA funds. But we won’t know for a while and until then, we just have to go with the worst-case scenario.”
A waiting list is being developed for people who are not currently on the program and still need some assistance, however, there is no time frame for how long that list will be, he said. Also, to qualify for the waiting list, the full application process must be followed and the wait could be extensive, he said.
Because this is the only government-funded program in Utah, if people that are HIV-positive require assistance, they will have to seek financial aid from the patient assistance programs funded by the private pharmaceutical companies, Lowe said. The state of Utah provides some assistance to the ADAP program to pay for administrative costs, but there are no other government-funded programs that are geared specifically toward helping people with HIV and AIDS in Utah, he said.
“Those patient assistance programs take so much work to complete and are tough as hell to find,” said Toni Johnson, the executive director of the People with AIDS Coalition. “There are more than 3,000 people in Utah living with HIV or AIDS and that number just keeps rising. We can’t afford to cut the funding now. Not when we need it so much.”
The patient assistance programs can also require a lot of work to continue and some require a re-submission application every three months, Johnson said.
“This is really, really scary,” Johnson said.
It’s important to let local and national elected representatives know how important this program is for the community and urge the state and federal government to increase the funding for the ADAP and other similar programs, Johnson said.
“Getting money from the state is like pulling teeth, but we’ve all got to try,” Johnson said. “Email your legislators and let them know how important it is. Nothing is going to change unless we let them know that there’s a lot of people that are interested and need these programs.”
Because nearly all of the funding for the ADAP program comes from the federal government, seeking money from the state could help keep it running in the future, Johnson said.
“Mike (Lowe) and all the case workers are all fantastic and work so hard to help, I am just so sad to see the struggle that has to happen in order to get funding,” Johnson said.