For Immediate Release
Los Angeles, Calif. (February 3, 2012) - AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) this week released a research-based policy brief underscoring the potentially devastating impact of a state budget proposal that, for the first time ever, would force low-income, uninsured Californians living with HIV/AIDS to pay a significant share of the cost for their life-sustaining HIV treatments. Currently, those who cannot afford these often-costly treatments receive them at no charge through the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).
"The governor's proposal would be a public health and policy disaster," says APLA Executive Director Craig E. Thompson. "These fees would place life-saving HIV treatments just beyond the reach of the state's most vulnerable - or they'll be forced to pay the added costs at the expense of necessities like food or rent," Thompson adds. "If the cost of these drugs becomes prohibitive, we're sure to see a major spike in the number of new HIV infections statewide."
In his January budget message, the governor proposed charging low-income, uninsured Californians who are HIV-positive on average between $813 to over $4,600 annually to continue receiving drug regimens, vital to maintaining their health, through ADAP. The fees would apply to all Californians who are living with the disease but are earning more than the federal poverty level - little more than $10,000 per year. The California State Assembly rejected a similar proposal that came from the governor's office last year.
The governor's proposal also coincided with of the release of new data showing that people who properly adhere to their HIV drug regimens can dramatically reduce their ability to transmit the virus, effectively lowering new infection rates among those who are HIV-negative but at highest risk. As a result, public health experts are calling for expanded HIV testing and treatment efforts as a means to slow the epidemic's growth.
"We will work with the legislature and the Brown administration to again defeat this proposal," Thompson explains. "If the state wants to save money, then it should prioritize and expand HIV testing and prevention programs while maintaining access to HIV care and treatment for those who cannot afford it.
"Any savings generated by this proposal would be quickly outpaced by a rise in costs to treat these new and potentially preventable infections," Thompson adds.
The policy brief was prepared in collaboration with researchers from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA). Funding for the brief came from a three-year policy research grant from the university system's California HIV/AIDS Research Program.
AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, provides bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. With more than 30 years of service, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. For more information, visit apla.org.