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House passes ‘Hastings Amendment’ in a voice vote early Friday morning; following meetings with AHF doctor & staff, Alcee Hastings (D, FL 23rd), introduced and shepherded budget amendment reallocating $42 million in government bureaucracy to relieve the struggling AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP)

Florida, with nation’s third highest AIDS rate, has 3,276 people on an ADAP waiting list as of Feb 17th; AHF commends Rep. Hastings for his leadership funding lifesaving AIDS drug program

By: AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Washington, DC – February 18, 2011
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today commended United States Congressman Alcee Hastings (D, FL, 23rd District) for authoring, introducing and successfully shepherding a budget amendment to the current year’s budget that secures crucial additional funding to address a growing crisis in the nation’s AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), a network of federal and state funded programs that provide life-saving HIV treatments to low income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS nationwide. The House of Representatives passed the Hastings Amendment in a voice vote recorded at 12:38 a.m. Friday morning.

“Congressman Hastings has succeeded in getting government funding—$42 million—reallocated to address a growing AIDS funding shortfall that is crippling ADAP and threatening the lives of thousands of Americans,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “His swift and decisive action on this issue shows real leadership, and as a result, people with AIDS in Florida and across the nation have the potential to get off waiting lists and on to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. We thank Representative Hastings for vigorously supporting—and funding—ADAP, and we now call on the Senate to follow suit and make this funding happen.”

As of February 17th, there were 6,452 individuals on ADAP waiting lists in 10 states, including 3,276 people—more than half the nationwide total—in Hastings’ home state of Florida. Since December alone, patient waiting lists for the nation’s hard-hit AIDS Drug Assistance Program have grown 36% for individuals waiting to access antiretroviral treatment through ADAP than there were just two months ago.

Last week, officials and physicians from AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Southern Bureau, which 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 and AHF pharmacies located throughout the state, a statewide disease management program and its Positive Healthcare Managed Care program, traveled to Washington to lobby for the use of financial offsets from HHS bureaucracy to address the ADAP crisis. Michael Kahane, AHF’s Southern Bureau Chief and Dr. Rebecca Colon, Medical Director of AHF’s NorthPoint clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida met primarily with the Florida House delegation, clearly laying out the impact ADAP funding shortages are having on people with HIV/AIDS in Florida, as well as those vulnerable to infection.

During the lobbying visits, AHF’s delegation met with Rep. Alcee Hastings’ office. Congressman Hastings subsequently offered an amendment to the House budget that moves $42 million from the bureaucracies of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and redirects it through Health and Human Services (HHS) specifically to ADAP, for use from now until the end of September, 2011. This reallocation of existing government funds results in more money for AIDS and no increase in overall federal spending.

“What’s truly remarkable about the passage of the Hasting Amendment is that at time when the Republican controlled House is cutting over $100 billion from the budget, they unanimously agreed to fund AIDS care and treatment,” added AHF’s Weinstein.

Still ahead: the Senate must now agree to the budget amendment in order for it to pass and take effect.

In an official statement posted on his blog (via his website) earlier today, Representative Hastings wrote:

“Last night, I offered an amendment to H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, which would help people living with HIV/AIDS who cannot afford their treatment by reallocating additional funding to our nation’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). I am pleased to report that my amendment was agreed to by a voice vote and thus included in H.R. 1.

It is unconscionable that, in 2011, we often have the resources to save lives but wait until a crisis before taking action. Just this month, thousands of Floridians living with HIV/AIDS were on the verge of losing access to their life-saving drugs as Florida’s ADAP ran out of money.

My amendment reallocates $14 million from each of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 administrative budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH) in order to provide $42 million to ADAP. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if enacted, my amendment would save $1 million in new FY 2011 expenditures. Furthermore, it would have no net budget authority effect for FY 2011.

We can and must do better. I urge my colleagues to support increased funding for our nation’s ADAP by voting in favor of my amendment. By reallocating desperately-needed funds to ADAP, we are helping states like Florida ensure that low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS have access to the medications and services they need to stay alive while stemming the tide of new infections and saving our nation money in the long-term.”

During the debate on the amendment last evening, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL 20th District) also spoke on the issue. In her remarks, Wasserman Shultz said:

“This essential national program is undeniably in the midst of a devastating funding crisis. The combination of an economic recession, state budget cuts and increased testing and diagnosis of HIV have a created the perfect storm against ADAP’s fiscal situation. More patients are requiring ADAP treatment as the program has been emptied out.

This has resulted in drastic cuts to services provided and thousands in 10 different states have ended up on waiting lists to receive these necessary lifesaving drugs. In my own state of Florida, with the largest of all such waiting lists, 3,276 individuals languish without access to affordable lifesaving treatment. Our state has lowered financial eligibility down to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level while at the same time reducing the formulary for the patients who still qualify.

In this budgetary climate, we must make smart and sensible decisions where we can afford to make an administrative haircut if the tradeoff is saving lives. It is our moral imperative to do so.”

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