Thursday, July 13, 2006

Victory! NC Legislature Strengthens AIDS Drug Assistance Program

A press release from Equality NC follows:

Equality North Carolina celebrates Thursday's passage of the state budget, including a provision that will double the eligibility level for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), allowing this state program to provide more low-income North Carolinians with life-saving HIV/AIDS medicines.

North Carolina previously had the worst eligibility level of any U.S. state or territory. Only those citizens who earned less than $12,250 per year (125% of the Federal Poverty Level) could qualify for state assistance in purchasing treatments that can cost from $12,000 to $20,000 a year. This left low-income, HIV-positive North Carolinians in an untenable situation, forced to choose between food, rent and the medicine they need to stay healthy. A provision in the budget increases eligibility to $24,500 (250% of FPL), bringing the state closer to the national standard.

The legislature's approval of this provision is a crucial victory for the state's fight against HIV/AIDS. North Carolina is one of the most highly affected states by the disease -- with over 14,000 total cases, more than all but 12 states and Washington D.C. -- yet it has lagged behind in the effort to fund research and medicine.

Equality NC worked closely with legislators and other advocates, including the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, to secure this important victory.

Equality NC applauds the efforts of all the legislators who fought for this change, including Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Thomas Wright (D-New Hanover), Sen. Larry Shaw (D-Cumberland) and Sen. Bill Purcell (D-Scotland), who were outspoken advocates.

With additional financial support toward HIV/AIDS expected soon from federal funds, the legislature's budget decision is an important and unifying step toward fully meeting the needs of North Carolinians living with HIV/AIDS.

"Finally, our state is no longer the shame of the nation for so badly failing the poor living with HIV," said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director of Equality NC. "As we celebrate this important step forward, we also remind our elected officials that treatment is only part of the equation for fighting HIV/AIDS. Along with our allies, we will be back to build on this success by working to secure state investment in effective prevention programs that reduce the spread of this disease."



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