The waiting list of poor, uninsured Georgians with HIV who need life-saving medication was, just months ago, the longest in the U.S. Now, state health officials triumphantly say they’ve cut it to zero.
The state Department of Public Health yelled victory on Thursday, ending a nearly two-year run for Georgia as having one of the largest waiting lists in the nation for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Though the state’s waiting list has dropped dramatically since leading the nation earlier this year, it included 130 people as recently as Aug. 16.
“This reduction of our wait list to zero is a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering where we were in 2011,” DHP Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald says in a prepared statement.
State health officials helped cut the waiting list by moving HIV-positive people to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, which was made possible by a provision in President Obama’s healthcare reform bill in 2010 that serves as a safety-net for people who can’t get insurance due to medical conditions. The state also received a $8.43 million boost that was part of $80 million in federal grants to help eliminate ADAP waiting lists in 25 states.
“Eliminating the waiting list required extraordinary work and ingenuity,” J. Patrick O’Neal, DPH’s health protection director, says in a prepared statement.
But Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said the end of the state’s ADAP waiting list is due largely to the $8.4 million in emergency funds. Graham and other HIV activists have sounded the alarm about the waiting list since a rally in the State Capitol in December 2010.
“The Department certainly deserves credit for their hard work on this, however it wouldn’t have happened without the $8.4 million in emergency ADAP funding that President Obama secured and without the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program established by the Affordable Care Act,” Graham says in a Facebook post.