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HIV/AIDS Unity Day

Contact: Judith Pindell, Director Public Policy and Advocacy

AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland

216.621.0766 x231

jpindell@atfgc.org

Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Bipartisan HIV/AIDS Unity Day Press Conference highlights waiting list, need for increased funding for the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program

Columbus, OH –  The HIV/AIDS community joined friends, allies, providers, and stakeholders at the HIV/AIDS Unity Day Press Conference at the Ohio Statehouse to show support for the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program (OHDAP) and urge Ohio legislators to fund the program at a sufficient level to serve all Ohioans in need of these services.

“The Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program (Ryan White Program) allows Ohioans with HIV to keep off Medicaid, keep working and stay healthy and productive. Without this program, thousands of Ohioans would have to rely on Medicaid and costs to the tax payers would increase dramatically,” explained Representative David Burke (R-83).

The current state budget proposals from both Governor Kasich and Ohio House of Representatives do not reflect the true funding amount needed to meet the true needs of people with HIV in Ohio. Governor Kasich proposed “level funding” for HIV/AIDS services in the amount of $5.5 million for both FY 2012 and 2013. The Ohio House of Representatives budget calls for a slight increase of an additional $200,000 a year for the next two fiscal years. However, even with this funding increase, the Ohio AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in Ohio will continue to grow.

Elaine Henderson spoke about her personal experience with the disease and the role access to medication and services play in maintaining her health and quality of life.  “Currently there are 413 individuals living with HIV on Ohio’s Drug Assistants Programs wait list, including myself,” she revealed.  “It’s a scary thing, wondering month to month whether the medications you need to save your life are going to be available. Advocating and rallying hoping that your legislatures understand just how important this issue really is. Thirty years ago people prayed for life saving medication and they watched as friends and loved ones died from AIDS at alarming rates. Today we have the medication, but pray for access to them before we become too frail, before we become too sick, before it’s too late.”

In order to adequately serve all Ohioans living with HIV/AIDS in need, the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program requires a funding level amount of $8.5 million for each fiscal year.

“The Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program is a good, effective program that works. It provides access to lifesaving medication and critical services to Ohioans who cannot afford them.  As with all non-profit service organizations in Ohio, The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland is experiencing increased needs for care and services during a time of drastically decreased resources. Current and proposed funding levels for the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program fall dangerously short of adequately sustaining the needs of each and every Ohioan in need of this program.” Tracy Jones, Executive Director, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland

Representative Nickie Antonio (D-13) stressed, “It is important that we keep the promise for access to care and services for all living with HIV/AIDS in the State of Ohio.  I am committed to this goal.”

Following the press conference, Elaine Henderson and other stakeholders delivered hundreds of pill bottles filled with hand written messages in support of funding for the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program to Governor Kasich’s office and to the members of the Ohio Senate Finance Committee.

Representative Mike Foley (D-14) also spoke at the event.  In attendance was Representative Denise Driehaus (D-31).  Additional legislative supporters of the HIV/AIDS Unity Day included Senators Shirley Smith (D-21), Michael Skindell (D-23) and Nina Turner (D-25) and Representative Michael Stinziano (D-25).