World AIDS Day "Universal Access" at Risk for 350 Floridians
World AIDS Day is four weeks from now, December 1st. This year's global theme is "Universal Access and Human Rights".
Unfortunately, for 350 Florida uninsured HIV/AIDS patients this day may find them cut from the Florida Department of Health federally funded program that pays for all or most of their drugs. This is the reality of the current economy and a budget crisis.
The “universal access” is at risk for another 2,000 or more HIV-positive patients who may be bumped from the drug subsidy program unless the state can close a $16 million shortfall in the next few months.
The Sun Sentinel reports Tom Liberti, chief of the state's Bureau of HIV/AIDS said, "We are all pursuing every possible legal and financial option we can to make up the deficit. No one wants to disenroll one patient."
Ironically, Florida expects the 350 people to lose coverage within 30 days or by World’s AIDS Day. The state will save about $10,000 per person per year.
Most of the 350 people will be able to continue getting free or low-cost medicine through manufacturer assistance programs, but activists fear the loss of coverage from the program will disrupt the supply of drugs and the drug-taking schedules of HIV patients.
If this happens, the stable HIV patients may become unstable. Taking the medicine on a rigid schedule is crucial as missing even 5% of doses gives the virus a chance to become resistant to the drugs.
The economy and budget crisis won’t slow the infection rate of AIDS. On average, one person in the U.S. will become infected with HIV every 9 1/2 minutes. More than 14,000 people die each year in the U.S. from AIDS.
There are more than one million people in the U.S. who are living with HIV. Of those, only 4 out of 5 know they are infected. The other 1 out of 5 don’t know and therefore will pass the virus to their partners unknowingly.
Universal access to care and drugs is crucial, but so is prevention.
To protect yourself from getting HIV
- Don't have sex at all (anal, vaginal, and oral sex).
- Only have sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) if you are in a mutually monogamous relationship and you have both tested negative for HIV.
- Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
- Reduce your number of sex partners; this will reduce your risk of getting HIV as well as other STDs.
- Encourage all sexual partners to get tested for HIV and make sure they tell you the results.
- Locate an HIV and STD testing site near you or from your mobile phone, text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948). You can also call 1-800-CDC-INFO for assistance in locating a testing site.
- If you are a man who has sex with other men or if you engage in anal sex, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B viruses.