August looked good — only 31 people were on Florida's Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list, according to a monthly report from the state's department of health.
And things are only going to get better. In July, the Obama Administration announced almost $70 million in grants to ADAP programs around the country. Florida will get $11,555,956 in total (for a list of all the states that got funding, see the sidebar), more than any other state.
“We clearly need more — but this really takes us down to where we're under a hundred on the waiting list statewide,” said Joey Winn, Broward House's director of public policy. “It really does solve the problem for a while.”
While August's numbers were much better than past years, July's were even better, sitting at 27 people. But it was as recent as September 2011 when Florida's ADAP waiting sat at an all time high of 4,100 applicants.
“It will slowly start to creep back up,” Winn said. “It wasn't enough money to completely make this go away.”
The money comes in two pieces. One segment's called Competing Continuation, which means it's money that Florida got last year and that it's getting again this year — that's $6,979,996. The other segment is called New Competing, and is new money flowing into the state — that's $4,575,960. Together, these Florida dollar signs make up more than an eighth of the funds awarded nationwide.
Money is awarded to individuals who apply to it through the state, which has an ADAP department. Case managers from local agencies will help individuals apply and enroll in the program. The state, which buys the drugs with funding like this, then dispenses it as if it were a pharmacy.
“It took a long time to get here,” Winn said. “HIV drugs are so expensive that working people can't afford it.”
He's talking about the $900 to $2500 bills that a positive person will foot to afford the medication. If therapy is involved, the price only goes up. In Florida, Winn said, the average yearly cost of HIV medicine is $16,000.
Asked to hold Florida's ADAP program against other states, Winn said that each state has a different way of doing things — there's no rule book — so comparing wouldn't work.
To add to the funding from the federal government, Florida lawmakers in the 2012-13 Legislative Session gave the ADAP program an additional $2.5 million.
“Even one person on the list isn't a good number,” Winn said. “But a hundred is manageable.”
Editor’s Note: Gideon Grudo is a reporter with the South Florida Gay News and this article is used with permission.