With dwindling federal funds to keep supply meeting demand, states participating in the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program are shoving hundreds and sometimes thousands of people with HIV or AIDS onto wait lists to get the drugs they need to stay healthy and alive. Some states are doing away with wait lists altogether, because they suggest there’s something actually worth waiting for.

Bringing this wait list back down to zero, where it was three years ago, has an obvious up-side: far fewer instances where HIV-positive persons develop full-blown AIDS and require lengthy, expensive hospital stays, which are far more detrimental to the bottom line. The federal program, administered by states, offers prescription meds to the poor, uninsured, and under-insured, whose monthly drug bills can reach five-figures.

And yet state after state is narrowing or completely closing enrollment in its programs, a problem exacerbated by the recession spiking unemployment, where workers previously covered by their companies’ health care plans must now rely on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. While individuals already enrolled generally do not face a risk of losing their coverage, some states kick the, off the roster if they fail to reapply every six months, a not-so-easy task when many of these folks are already battling joblessness and homelessness. These people would then, yep, go on the wait list.


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