Thanks to new drug therapy the number of AIDS cases and deaths in Ohio has dropped. But, that could be bad news for HIV and AIDS prevention and assistance programs - it could mean less government money for them. For 90.3, FM Tarice Sims reports.
Tarice Sims- The once mysterious AIDS virus doesn't necessarily come with a death sentence anymore. In the last five years the number of new cases of AIDS in Ohio has dropped from more than 400 per year to less than 30, and AIDS deaths have decreased from over 500 per year to little more than a hundred. People infected with HIV and AIDS are living longer. New drug treatments are accessible to those in need through programs funded by the state and the federal government. This year the federal government provided Ohio with nearly $13 million and the state kicked in nearly $7 million for HIV and AIDS programs. But getting more money to expand the programs could be a challenge. Richard Aleshire works on AIDS programs for the Ohio Department of Health. He says it's too bad that the federal government will give more money only if there are more AIDS deaths.
Richard Aleshire- The funding formulary that's been used has been based on AIDS cases only and that affects the money states receive because the number of AIDS cases is decreasing.
TS- The reality is HIV cases are on the rise in Ohio and dollars for prevention and services are badly needed. Advocates are quick to point out that since 1995, new HIV cases have risen by close to 200 per year. But, funding for AIDS services is not just affected by the total number of people infected with the virus. It's also affected by which people have it. Some advocates have argued that most of the new money hasn't gone to the largest infected group. Elizabeth Cross is the chief of HIV and AIDS surveillance for the Health Department.
Elizabeth Cross- So when you look at the epidemic and you have people who will say to us why aren't you putting more money toward men who have sex with men, they remain the highest risk group? We tend to say that is true and we need to address that problem. We also want to keep it from increasing in the populations where we are seeing new growth. The infrastructure is there for the men who have sex with men. We need to keep that going and we want to make sure that effort continues. But we also want to prevent these HIV infections in women and African Americans.
TS- Minorities in Ohio have been disproportionately infected by HIV and AIDS. For example, African Americans have a rate six times higher than whites. But, the homosexual male population still makes up abut 70% of those living with HIV and AIDS. Matthew Dunfee works with all groups infected with HIV and AIDS as a member of the Ohio AIDS Coalition. 12 years ago he found he was HIV-positive. After being infected at a time AIDS treatment was non existent, he escaped death by taking the AIDS drug cocktail, a mixture of various medications. Dunfee says unlike many of the people he helps through the Coalition, he has health insurance.
Matthew Dunfee- I'm on somewhere between 14 and 16 prescription drugs - the estimated cost would range anywhere from $40,000-$60,000 a year. And, without an insurance plan or some kind of outside support I would not be able to access that medicine.
TS- According to the Ohio Department of Health, HIV and AIDS programs require people to meet income eligibility. The funds help only people with incomes that don't exceed $1,500 a month. The programs assist with housing, insurance, medical needs, home health care and quick cash in emergencies. The federal law that funds most of the programs in Ohio is currently being reviewed in the U.S. Congress. Advocates are hoping congress will increase funding for the next five years. In Columbus, Tarice Sims, 90.3 FM.