State halts applications for AIDS drugs program

Published: Monday, Sept. 28 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Utah Department of Health announced on Thursday that it will no longer accept new applications for the Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program, Support Services Program and the Health Insurance Continuation Program.

The White program cannot afford to accept additional clients because of increases in drug costs and health insurance premiums, reduced federal funding and a growing number of people who are eligible for funding, health officials said.

The program now needs as much as $375,000 just to maintain services to existing patients at the current level, officials said. The number of people living with HIV/AIDS is increasing due to advances in drug treatment, meaning those who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are living longer and needing services longer.

There are 2,290 people living with HIV/AIDS in Utah. About 600 are enrolled for some level of Utah's Ryan White Part B Program services.

The program has been funded by a $4.2 million grant from the federal Health Resources Services Administration. The current funding cycle ends in March, meaning services for nearly 100 Utah clients will have to be terminated. The situation is not unique to Utah. Seven states have been forced to close enrollment to new clients and six more states are anticipating new and/or additional restrictions to their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

"These are tough decisions but ones that need to be made. The program needs to be fiscally responsible in order to keep running," said Kristen Ries, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Utah Medical Center, and member of the ADAP Advisory Committee.

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