A state waitlist for people seeking public assistance for HIV treatment drugs will be discontinued by Sept. 30 as it will no longer be needed.
Since November 2010, the state has struggled to meet the medication needs of low income Virginians with HIV and no insurance. It was the first time the state couldn’t afford to meet the demands for the program.
With additional money coming to the program those on the waitlist will be transitioned to the program in the coming weeks. By September the program anticipates being able to accommodate all eligible people.
A combination of factors caused the state to create the waitlist, including the rising cost of the drugs, an increase in the number of people seeking assistance through the program and no increase in funding to support the program.
The state attributed the growth in demand in part to the recession and unemployment and health insurance loss.
To deal with the fiscal shortfall, money was redirected to purchasing the medications, while trims were made to other areas of the program’s budget. But that wasn’t enough to turn it around. The federal government gave Virginia $3 million in emergency money to address the situation, and the General Assembly approved an additional $250,000 for the program, on top of its $2.6 million appropriation.
No one has gone without medications as those on the waitlist were directed to various charity programs, such as drug companies’ prescription assistance programs, said Steven Bailey, who manages the program for the state.
But the situation was not ideal, he said.
“In order for HIV medications to be effective, people need to take all medications precisely as scheduled,” Bailey said. “They [those on the waitlist] would be accessing different medications through different companies that were shipped in different ways and all came on different schedules.”
The chance of not adhering to the precise medication regime given those circumstances is higher than if all the medication is provided together, Bailey said.
“If someone is appropriately treated with medications, it lower amounts of virus and decreases the risk of transmitting [HIV] to others,” he said.
At its peak, in December 2011, the waitlist had 1,112 people. Currently 579 are on the list, Bailey said.
Currently the program helps about 11 percent of Virginians with HIV access medications.