Kentucky Equality Federation condemns special legislative session for not including KADAP funding

Kentucky Equality Federation today condemned the special legislative session called by Governor Steve Beshear for not including funding to the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program (KADAP).

Budget cuts have forced the program to create a wait list for people newly diagnosed with HIV. The Commonwealth of Kentucky is currently # 2 in the nation on a waiting list. Activists in the State of South Carolina protested at the state Capitol today.

“We urge the Honorable Steve Beshear as head of state and government of the Commonwealth to immediately take steps to restore this life saving program,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “The legislature, with the exception of Senior Representative Tom Burch, chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee have effectively told new HIV patients to ‘drop dead.'”

In Resolution 1333, Kentucky Equality Federation’s Board of Directors declared an AIDS crisis in the Commonwealth, and condemned the Kentucky House of Representatives for failure to fund the program.

“We’ve heard stories from people seeking out second mortgages to pay for their medications,” say Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer and Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Action Group (KHAAG) President Bobby Edelen. “One person who approached us said, ‘with the uncertainty of receiving assistance I am thinking about selling off my life insurance policy’ to afford life-sustaining medications. We’re back to the 80s.”

The nearly 1300 patients enrolled in the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program (KADAP), which is currently unfunded, receive medications through a hodge-podge of resources that are temporary and unsustainable.

In the meantime, Kentucky has a waiting list for drug assistance – numbering over 200 men and women – with more being added every day according to the Kaiser Foundation’s State Health Facts. “When do we come off the waiting list? asked one HIV/AIDS patient, when we die?”

To compound the issue, Kentucky lawmakers allowed the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program to expire. “The fact that the Commonwealth also stopped funding the low-income Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program in 2007 is inhumane, shortsighted, and threatens individual and public health,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.

People with HIV/AIDS who do not have access to medications are at increased risk for opportunistic infections, more frequent hospitalization (often under indigent status), and early death.

In contrast, a person who is taking HIV medications as prescribed and taking care of their health can reasonably expect to live as long as someone without HIV. “Not funding the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program is inhumane, shortsighted, and threatens individual and public health,” states Palmer, who met with lawmakers six times during the legislative session trying to get KADAP restored.

HIV/AIDS has the most devastating impact on Kentucky’s most at-risk communities, who already face significant barriers in accessing health care. KADAP is literally a lifeline for these men and women.

Minority populations are disproportionately at risk for HIV/AIDS. According to statistics from the HIV/AIDS Branch of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, African-Americans in Kentucky make 7.6% of the commonwealth’s total population but account for 36% of all new HIV infections. Similarly, Latino Kentuckians make up 2.4% of the population but account for 7% of new HIV infections.

In March, organizations across the Commonwealth joined Kentucky Equality Federation in stating that “KADAP is a crucial and necessary program for Kentuckians living with HIV/AIDS.” These organizations included the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Action Group, AVOL (AIDS Volunteers, Inc.), the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Planning and Advisory Council, COLAGE (Children Of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere), Kentucky Chapter, United We Stand – Kentucky’s LGBTI News, The Wings Clinic, House of Ruth, Moveable Feast, GLSO (Lexington Gay Lesbian Service Organization), University of Kentucky OUTsource, and the University of Kentucky Gay-Straight Alliance.

Kentucky Equality Federation will work with activists around the Commonwealth to prepare a protest at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion. “Lawmakers failed to act, now it is in the hands of our Governor,” added Palmer. “We also recognize that U.S. President Obama is also to blame for cutting funding to these programs.”