In the mid-1990s with the advent of anti-retroviral therapies for people living with HIV/AIDS, a disease that was once characterized as a death-sentence quickly became a chronic, manageable disease. Lessons learned over the previous decade – especially from the three epicenters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – fueled an advocacy movement that yielded the Ryan White Community AIDS Resources Emergency Act, otherwise known as the Ryan White CARE Act – named after the young boy, Ryan White, who galvanized the national conscious over the stigma facing people living with HIV/AIDS.
Fast forward to 2010, despite all the news over health care reform and improving access to care for the uninsured and under-insured, there exists a crisis facing people living with HIV/AIDS trying to access their life-saving medications. Under the Ryan White law – specifically Part B of the Act – there is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or what is commonly known as ADAP. There are currently over 168,000 Americans who rely on ADAPs to provide them with their anti-HIV medications, but unfortunately not everyone is getting their medications.
A “perfect storm” has befallen the cash-strapped ADAPs nationwide as the recession led to more people needing to access the safety-net program, in addition to other factors – such as inadequate federal funding and state budget cuts, just to name a few. The end result is there are 3,441 people living with HIV/AIDS in nine states who have been placed on “waiting lists” for ADAP services. These waiting lists put the very people that ADAP’s services are designed to help in danger, because without access to their medications people living with HIV/AIDS run the risk of developing opportunistic infections or worse, drug resistance to the medication.
As of September 23rd, ADAPs in crisis included Florida with 1,796 people, Georgia with 553 people, Iowa with 0 people (program capped on September 15, 2010), Kentucky with 227 people, Louisiana with 439 people, Montana with 10 people, North Carolina 36 people, Ohio with 232 people and South Carolina with 148 people.
While there are efforts in Washington, DC and in the various states to alleviate the crisis by securing additional funding, there are other innovative solutions underway to link people to care. Among them is the solution being made available by the Heinz Family Philanthropies and Welvista Pharmacy, which is a national leader in providing medication to the uninsured. The Heinz-Welvista solution to the ADAP crisis is a “unique public-private partnership of non-governmental healthcare intervention.” It is currently being supported by Abbott Laboratories, Merck & Co., Tibotec Therapeutics – and efforts are underway to bring on other pharmaceutical companies.
According to a press statement released earlier this year, “The program eliminates all enrollment forms for these patients. Enrollment is virtually automatic for anyone certified on an ADAP waiting list and can provide direct access to no-cost…HIV medications through Welvista. Patients who are on ADAP waiting lists and need to access this solution to receive their…medications can request their state ADAP contact Welvista. If need exists after one year, the program may be extended.”
Eligible ADAP clients on the waiting lists must complete several easy steps, which include:
• The patient must be currently on a State ADAP waiting list;
• The State ADAP Coordinator must sign the form authorizing the patient to receive medications;
• The completed form must be faxed to Welvista at the number on the form - 1-877-801-8146;
• It may be necessary to submit the form to the Healthcare provider for prescription information; and
• Once the prescribing authority has completed the prescription, it can be faxed directly to Welvista at 1-877-801-8146 by the Healthcare provider.
The Heinz-Welvista solution has been welcomed news in an otherwise bleak environment. In fact, Jeffrey Lewis, President of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, summarized it best in his recent Op-Ed to the Boston Herald when he said, “The one-stop solution created through this partnership works quite simply: It eliminates all enrollment forms, making enrollment automatic for anyone certified on an ADAP waiting list. Patients on the waiting lists who need access to no-cost Abbott, Merck or Tibotec HIV medications need only request that their state ADAP program representative contact Welvista. HIV/AIDS meds will be shipped directly to the patient or to a medical provider if so preferred. Program costs are covered by grants provided by all the participants and administered by Welvista. This market-based solution is a national initiative designed to help patients in any state.”
This solution represents the very best of public-private partnerships designed to link people who need services to the people (and organizations) that are offering the services. Despite the crisis facing the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, initiatives such as this one provide a little bit of hope!
The WE Movement and its HELP4U platform support this worthwhile initiative. We have joined, will you? Learn more at http://www.wemovement.org/.