As a social scientist, I spend a lot of time thinking about how life could be better for others. That’s why it’s difficult for me to hear about the attack on initiatives already providing people a chance for a better life.
In September 2018, federal funds meant to help low-income Americans receive HIV treatment were used to detain a record number of young undocumented immigrants, separating them from their families. This event calls for reasserting the importance of federally-funded programs in addressing the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis.
As part of a $260 million budget change, $5.7 million of federal funds were taken from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). The Program is a major component of the U.S. government’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS initiatives. The diverted funds follow a prior $59 million decrease in Ryan White funding from fiscal years 2017 to 2018. Such cuts and rollbacks are concerning. The continued support of treatment programs like ADAP is critical.
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program provides medication to low-income people with limited or no health insurance who are living with HIV. In 2016, more than eight-thousand North Carolinians depended on the program through the NC HIV Medication Assistance Program, making North Carolina one of the top ten states per number of ADAP clients served. 82% of these North Carolina clients accessing the HIV Medication Assistance Program achieved suppressed viral loads while the suppression rate is just 62% for all those living with HIV in the state.
Organizations actively taking on the HIV/AIDS crisis have recognized the importance of ADAP. The NC AIDS Action Network produced a series of interviews called ADAP Stories, which offers insights into the program’s firsthand impacts. Stories of North Carolinians like Chrishelle, a teacher from Durham, illuminate how the program “means [being] able to take medication and [not being] overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to afford it.”
While the amount moved from ADAP, $5.7 million dollars, may seem like a small portion of the $900 million nationwide budget, the change comes as many people living with HIV struggle to continually acquire the medication they need.
–Darius Scott, Ph.D.