Washington Blade - October 21, 2005
Like your last writer ("Feeling Helpless"), I too am
HIV-positive, at a lower-income level and have had many doors
shut in my face when trying to get help with medication payments
and co-pays. I have applied to, and participated in, many
pharmaceutical and/or hospital-based research studies in order to
obtain the life-saving medications that I needed. I was faithful
to the dosing requirements and never missed an appointment with
the doctor. But, when the study was complete, so was my
usefulness to the pharmaceutical company. Once they're done with
the study they're done with you. It's "no more meds and don't let
the door hit you on the way out."
I can't begin to count how many HIV-positive people I know who
were denied drug assistance from AIDS services organizations
because their income was literally as little as a few dollars
over the cutoff for financial aid. Even if you are on disability,
or working at a job that pays minimum wages but provides no
health coverage, you may still not qualify for assistance in
obtaining your necessary medications because, according to the
government (city, county, state or federal - take your pick), you
are seen as gainfully employed or with adequate income.
However, disability often puts you at a fixed income level for
life and the minimum wage is not enough to live on. What are you
supposed to do when the apartment you rented four years ago for
$525.00 a month is now renting for $750.00 per month?
While your suspicions that "Feeling Helpless" couldn't get help
because he didn't provide proper documentation may be accurate,
please remember that thousands of HIV-positive men, women and
children are denied assistance every day in this country because
of corporate politics, outmoded financial requirements and
critical funding shortages. "Feeling Helpless" may fall into that
group of pozzies.
Been there myself
Dear Been There:
Thank you for showing my readers just how "manageable" that
"manageable condition" can be.
You're right about all the obstacles people face in getting meds
but wrong about who you're blaming. When it comes to who gets
help and who doesn't, AIDS service organizations (ASOs) don't
make the rules; they follow them. The rule-makers are the state
and federal governments.
Example: If the state of Georgia sets the poverty line for a
single individual at $27,600 (which it does) and you make $27,650
then good luck trying to get AID Atlanta to help you. They'd
endanger their government funding and end up unable to help
ASOs do have ways of helping people who are above the
government's "poverty line" (Emergency rent services, for
example, and in limited cases, providing free meds through the
AIDS Drug Assistance Program). But the truth is, you and your
"manageable condition" are screwed if you make too much money to
qualify for assistance but not enough to afford insurance.
You're pretty screwed even if you do have health insurance since
you are responsible for the HIV med co-pays, which can run
$50-$100 per med. If you're taking three or four meds, that's up
to $400 a month just in co-pays, let alone the overall insurance
Bottom line: Getting infected with HIV may not be a death
sentence but trying to get the meds will make you die a thousand
To maximize your chances at getting help do this:
Provide all the documentation asked for (like your HIV status,
Keep your appointments and do what the case worker says.
If you make more than the government's limits but can't afford
insurance ask the case worker for guidance.
If your caseworker isn't helpful, ask for another one.
If your caseworker doesn't mention them, specifically ask for the
AIDS Drug Assistance Program or Emergency Assistance Funds.