RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - In less than two years, Virginia has eliminated the waiting list for a program that helps low-income residents obtain AIDS medication.
Additional funding, cost-cutting, and partnerships among local, state and federal groups enabled the state to end the waiting list in August, the Washington Times (http://bit.ly/RwmRgq ) reported.
The waiting list peaked at 1,112 people in December 2011, when slightly less than 2,500 people were enrolled in the program.
In November 2010, the state restricted eligibility to children, pregnant women, and people receiving treatment for potentially fatal infections that exploit weakened immune systems. More than 3,500 people were enrolled in the program before the restrictions went into effect.
The restrictions were imposed because of budget constraints, which were gradually eased as more money became available. Forty-nine percent of the people on the waiting list enrolled in the program between November 2010 and June. Others were no longer eligible, found coverage through Medicaid or private insurance, or could not be contacted.
"I think that the ability to eliminate the wait list is critically important both to individual and public health," said Diana L. Jordan, director of the State Department of Health's Division of Disease Prevention. "I think the key is that earlier treatment reduces HIV transmission as well."
Medicare rebates, removing inactive clients and other measures provided $10.3 million in savings, while the monthly cost per patient declined from $2.9 million in June 2010 to an average $1.7 million this year.
Elimination of waiting lists is welcome news but Virginia created an "invisible waiting list" when it also removed more expensive drugs from the program and tightened eligibility requirements, said Brandon M. Macsata, CEO of the nonprofit ADAP Advocacy Association.
Several other states reduced their waiting lists to zero, only to restart them several months later, he said.
"The dollars aren't keeping up with the bodies. There's no guarantee that in three months, there won't be a waiting list," he said. "If you're making somebody one day eligible and the next day not eligible, that's not (fixing) the crisis."