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July 20, 2010

Advocates decry New Jersey changes in AIDS, HIV assistance

Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/20/2010: "Effective Aug. 1, nearly 1,000 New Jersey residents with AIDS and HIV will be dropped from a state program that helps pay for their lifesaving medications.

"A measure in the New Jersey budget signed by Gov. Christie last month slashed the annual income permitted for enrollees in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, saving the state an estimated $7.4 million. ...

"New Jersey is 'going backward' in its policy and putting people - and state finances - at risk, Condoluci said. The cost of pharmaceutical assistance is far cheaper than the expense of emergency room visits or long hospital stays after a person goes off drugs, he said.

"An average hospital stay to treat an AIDS patient who has infections from not taking medications - a process that can take five days or more - may cost tens of thousands of dollars, he said.

"President Obama announced a goal last Tuesday of reducing new HIV and AIDS infections by 25 percent within five years. A week prior, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released $25 million to help states with their struggling drug-assistance programs.

"So far, the money has been targeted to states with qualified applicants on waiting lists. With fewer people eligible for the program, New Jersey won't have a waiting list, say state officials."