Political Battle Rages on in Texas Over HIV/AIDS Drugs for Low Income Patients
Dallas County Health officials are pleading and begging with the state NOT to cut funding for HIV medications. Why? Because there's an epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Texas that places the State at number 4.
The Senate subcommittee on Medicaid is recommending elimination of funding for HIV drugs for low income patients, some 14 thousand statewide. Zach Thompson is director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
Thompson says his department serves more than 1800 HIV/AIDS patients, and 58 of them would lose their medication. Thompson; “They really need their medication and to totally make a statement that you're going to cut the funding, and you know that people will die because they're not getting medication, it's the hardest thing I've seen in all the years of dealing with the Legislative process.”
The Texas AIDS Drug Assistance Program needs Texas legislators to provide $19.2 million in funding for over 2,000 individuals living with HIV and AIDS “If they lose their medications they will lose their ability to fight off infection,and ultimately lose their lives,”said AIDS Services of Austin Executive Director Paul Scott.
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Finance Subcommittee on Medicaid, said each item of the budget would be put into three categories in order to prioritize which programs would receive the additional money. Priority One would be the most important. The HIV drugs program fell into priority two.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, in last week’s hearing said;
"It is my belief that when we vote on a priority like this we are basically making a decision regarding who lives and who dies."
There are more barriers between poor AIDS patients and drug treatment programs in Texas than there are in other states.One of the main problems in Texas is that the State limits patients to three prescriptions per month,which is not enough to keep them healthy. Another problem is that Texas limits the treatments to people with incomes of $16,000 or less.Continued on the next page