Ohio: AIDS Protestors to Target Governor Over Proposed Medication Rationing

In News by AHF

Protestors will be in Steubenville, Ohio tomorrow, Tuesday at 1:00 pm outside the Wells Academy where Governor Kasich is expected to deliver his “State of the State” address

AIDS patients & concerned citizens upset over attempts by the state to adopt medical criteria as a guide to eligibility to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP); Campaign includes ads in the Ohio Dispatch with the headline “Governor Kasich: Stop Playing Bureaucratic Games with People’s Lives” and an eletter campaign via www.saveADAP.org

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO (FEBRUARY 6, 2012)⎯People living with HIV/AIDS and concerned citizens will protest Ohio Governor John R. Kasich at the “State of the State” address tomorrow, Tuesday, February 7th at the Wells Academy in Steubenville over proposed changes to the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) that would amount to AIDS drug rationing. In addition, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS medical care and advocacy organization (which will soon begin construction on a facility in Columbus that will house a thrift store, pharmacy and free HIV testing site), is supporting advocacy efforts in the state with an ad campaign set to the launch this week in the Columbus Dispatch targeting Governor Kasich. The ad, headlined “Governor Kasich: Stop Playing Bureaucratic Games with People’s Lives” urges the Governor to find alternative solutions to the state’s financial woes other than rationing lifesaving AIDS medications.

The ad states: “The Ohio Department of Health is trying to mandate severe medical and financial-eligibility changes to the Ohio AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) that will restrict access to lifesaving treatment for people with AIDS. Arbitrarily cutting off care to people with AIDS is not a cost-effective strategy for health officials, politicians—or Ohio taxpayers. This simply sweeps the problem under the rug and will ultimately lead to more new infections and higher health care costs.” The ad directs viewers to a website: www.saveADAP.org for more information and to send an eletter to Governor Kasich.

WHAT: Protest of Governor Kasich at State of the State Over AIDS Program
WHEN/WHERE: 1:00 PM EST / Wells Academy, 420 N. 4th Street, Steubenville, OH
WHO: People living with HIV/AIDS & concerned citizens
CONTACT: For inquiries about the protest: Eddie Hamilton, (614) 657-4701; For inquiries about the ad & www.saveADAP.org: Lori Yeghiayan Friedman, (323) 377-4312

Last November, a judge granted three Ohio AIDS patients a preliminary injunction preventing the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) from enforcing proposed changes to the state’s ADAP regulations. Earlier in November, longtime HIV/AIDS advocates filed a lawsuit against Theodore E. Wymyslo, M.D., Director of the ODH seeking an injunction to, “…to enjoin the Ohio Department of Health and its Director from enforcing a rule which was not properly adopted…and which will arbitrarily deny funding for potentially life-saving medications to Ohioans infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS-related symptoms.” The complaint was filed Wednesday November 2nd, in the Court of Common Pleas, Franklin County, Ohio (Case number 11CVH-11-13646) on behalf of Ohioans Eddie Hamilton, William Booth and David Baker by attorneys at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. The complaint also stated, “Because the Ohio Department of Health and its Director failed to follow Ohio’s statutory rule-making process, this Court must find that the proposed rule is unenforceable.”

The catalyst for the legal action arose in late September 2011, when Ohio health officials took final steps to institute what are likely some of the most severe medical and financial-eligibility changes to a government medical assistance program nationwide— provisions that would have rationed health care in Ohio, and would have given the Director of the Ohio Health Department unilateral, arbitrary control over who does and who does not get ADAP. The rule changes, which were scheduled to go into effect November 4th, drastically reduced individuals’ eligibility for Ohio’s beleaguered ADAP one in the national network of federal and state funded programs that provide life-saving HIV treatments to low income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

ADAP Waiting Lists Nationwide
According to ADAP Watch—published by the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)— as of January 27th, there were 4,774 individuals in 12 states on waiting lists to access lifesaving HIV/AIDS medications through ADAP. At present, Ohio has no patients on an ADAP waiting list, although over the past year, the state has had hundreds waiting for help from ADAP at times—with a high of 485 Ohioans on its ADAP waiting list as of June 30, 2011.

While Ohio’s proposed rule changes might appear to initially save the state some money in the short term, it ultimately would lead to far higher medical costs to the state as those disenfranchised AIDS patients became ill and seek emergency care at hospitals around the state—something far more costly and far less clinically appropriate.

Nationwide, ADAPs serve over 165,000 people, accounting for one third of people on AIDS treatment in the U.S. Unfortunately, the need for these programs expands every year, as more and more people become infected and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS; each year thousands of newly diagnosed HIV patients turn to ADAPs because they cannot afford their medicines.

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