Georgia has eliminated its waiting list for HIV-infected people to get government drug assistance.
Eight months ago, the state had the longest wait list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in the nation.
“The reduction of our wait list to zero is a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering where we were in 2011,” said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, in a statement.
The number of people on the waiting list for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) stood at 1,348 on Jan. 19, the longest in the U.S., Georgia Health News reported that month. By early June, the waiting list had been lowered to 490.
ADAP serves HIV-infected people who have low or moderate incomes and no health insurance. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and drug treatment is a key factor in preventing infected people from developing the full-scale disease.
Without enough funding to keep pace with demand for help, Georgia’s ADAP waiting list developed in July 2010. It reached more than 1,700 before the state received $3 million in federal funding last fall.
“Eliminating the waiting list required extraordinary work and ingenuity,” Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, Public Health’s director of health protection, said in a statement.
The state, in part, credited the move of more than 350 patients previously enrolled in ADAP to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Along with medications like those provided by ADAP, this insurance plan also provides participants with physician care, state officials noted.
That, in combination with $8.4 million received from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, helped eliminate Georgia’s wait list, the state said.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an advocacy group, said Public Health “certainly deserves credit for their hard work on this.”
Graham also cited the ADAP funding that the White House secured, along with the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
“Our challenge as advocates is to ensure that we are able to keep Georgia free from an ADAP waiting list as we implement the new treatment as prevention standards that call for all people to have access to anti-retroviral medications from the time of an HIV diagnosis,’’ he said.