Florida's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) runs out in two weeks. The problem is, new funding doesn't kick-in until April. That shortfall has left legislators and activists scrambling to secure extra funds to keep anti-retroviral medication flowing to the Sunshine State's 10,600 ADAP recipients.
But even if Florida plugs the funding gap, the life-saving program is already faltering in other ways.
"The state will say that nobody is going without medications, but that's not true," says South Florida AIDS activist Michael Rajner. "I know that because I've attempted to help people who've become constant victims of the system."
Nearly 3,000 Floridians are already stuck on an ADAP wait list, although major pharmaceutical companies have so far donated medications to those in need, Rajner says.
Last week, Senator Bill Nelson sent letters to Governor Rick Scott and President Obama asking for emergency funding for ADAP. He wrote to Obama:
Such a lapse in treatment could lead to a number of life-threatening conditions for the thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in Florida who rely on ADAP medication to maintain their quality of life as they struggle with this debilitating disease. State officials are working hard to find an interim source of funding for the program, but Florida has been hit disproportionally hard by the recession and the state is strapped for cash as it is.
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Rajner says Florida's ADAP is $14 million in the hole because the state has underfunded and mismanaged the program.
"Most states contribute 20 percent of state dollars towards their state program," he says. "Florida is at 9 percent."
"Our state doesn't really want to deal with this issue."