Budget Cuts May End State HIV Program

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In the maelstrom of suckage that is the state's $15 billion budget deficit, potential cuts to one program might literally be a death-blow.

The Texas HIV Medication Program, which covers treatment for approximately 15,000 people with HIV/AIDS, is facing cuts that would wipe the program out in two years, according to Randall Ellis of Houston's Legacy Community Health Services. (Harris County had 1,270 diagnoses of HIV between 2002 and 2009 -- a 31.6 percent case-per-year rate -- according to the Department of State Health Services' 2009 Texas HIV Surveillance Report.).

UPDATE: Looks like everyone needs to hold their horses. Christine Mann at DSHS tells us it's not accurate to characterize the medication program's situation as facing "cuts."

Although there's potential for the program to face hard times, such a situation would be due to DSHS not getting an extra $19.2 million its asking for to cover the increased cost of the program. Not quite the same as the budget being cut.

"The HIV Medication Program was not listed as a budget reduction option in the proposed House and Senate bills as it was introduced....[DSHS] is seeking $19.2 million in additional funds for the 2012-13 biennium, in an exceptional item request to the Legislature. If it's not funded, we would consider restructuring the program to best meet the needs of our clients, given all of the available resources." (Check the DSHS fact sheet on the program for more details).

Created in 1987 and overseen by the Department of State Health Services, the program covers the exorbitant costs for upwards of 50 medications that could cost a single person $16,000-$24,000 a year out-of-pocket, Ellis says.

"The success of the program is that we actually have people...that are older," he tells Hair Balls. "At one point, we didn't have increasing enrollment in this program, because people were dying."

Although there are temporary cost-covering measures -- like ones offered by pharmaceutical companies -- they "are only temporary fixes -- people will die," Ellis says.

The strange thing is, we thought Rick Perry said Texas was kicking ass compared to everyone else. Maybe we just misunderstood.

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