In response to the growing number of patients on AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting lists, the National Minority AIDS Council and the Flowers Heritage Foundation have joined forces to increase awareness of Bridge the Gap, a program that provides medication for people waiting for enrollment.
The economic downturn combined with increased testing efforts and budget cuts has resulted in the largest waiting list in the program's history with, as of mid December, 418 people without access to care. These patients can often wait months, even years, before they are enrolled in the program, and many experience disease progression or even death.
"Bridge the Gap is more important than ever, since nine states currently have ADAP waiting lists, with Tennessee being the most recent state to establish one. Even more alarming is the fact that in the last three months alone, the number of individuals waiting for treatment has jumped 167%," says Gregory Edwards, executive director of the Flowers Heritage Foundation. "By partnering with the National Minority AIDS Council, we are sending an urgent call-to-action to the public to donate funds to help these individuals get lifesaving medication."
Bridge the Gap is the only program of its kind that partners with individual states and raises funds for patients on waiting lists to pay for a one-year supply of medication. FHF and NMAC have created an online tool to allow individuals to easily and securely make donations to the program.
"We are honored to be working with the Flowers Heritage Foundation on the Bridge the Gap program," says Paul A. Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council. “Together, we hope to raise awareness about this growing public health issue and hopefully make ADAP waiting lists a thing of the past. We also are asking everyone to consider making a donation to the program this holiday season. Even the smallest of gifts will help ensure that families do not lose loved ones simply because they cannot afford treatment."
ADAP is a part of the Ryan White Program and uses federal funding to provide anti-HIV prescription drugs to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals. The number of ADAP patients varies in each state, and as demand for the program increases, states often try to contain costs by limiting enrollment, restricting the drug formulary, and instituting waiting lists. In mid December, nine states -- Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming -- had waiting lists, and more are expected to be announced in the coming months.
"The issue of the waiting lists is a vicious cycle because, without care, the disease will progress and become even more expensive to treat with the passage of time," says Rich Fortenbery, a spokesman for the Tennessee AIDS Care and Treatment Improvement Coalition. "Tennessee is a good example of a state where the waiting list is increasing at an alarming rate and, unfortunately, we expect the situation to get worse."
Bridge the Gap was established in 2006 and, officials say, helped several patients successfully get off of waiting lists before federal policy changes ended waiting lists nationally in 2007. One hundred percent of donations for the program go directly to help patients, according to program leaders. Registration, enrollment, and other administrative mechanisms for the program are managed by the Flowers Heritage Foundation.
To make a donation or learn more about Bridge the Gap, visit https://www.btgaap.org/nmac/.