More than 3,600 Floridians are on a government waiting list for AIDS medicine -- the longest list in the country, according to the national nonprofit the AIDS Institute. Of the needy patients, 886 live in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
The medicine, which keeps patients healthier and living longer, costs $12,000 to $36,000 a year, the Palm Beach County Health Departments says. Funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is provided to states by the federal Ryan White program. But thanks to the economic downturn, Florida has seen a "record increase" in enrollment in the program and last summer was forced to put people on a waiting list for aid.
This week, the Obama administration reversed some cuts to Florida's funding, but the $7 million allocated for the state is enough to continue
providing medicine only to existing patients -- not those waiting to be served. "This new money now will not put a dent in the waiting list in Florida," says Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute. "I don't know what we're going to do."
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South Florida is the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in America. According to 2008 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the Miami metro area has the highest AIDS rate in the nation, with 42.8 out of every 100,000 people infected.
This week, the CDC published a report saying that overall, the rate of new HIV infections in America remained steady from 2006 to 2009. But there was a 21 percent increase in the infection rate for young people ages 13 to 29.