Advocates say state cuts could lead to more HIV deaths - Cincinnati News, Weather, Sports from FOX19 NOW-WXIX

Advocates say state cuts could lead to more HIV deaths in Tri-state

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Mark Hayden, 49, enjoys the simple pleasures in life such as walking his dog outside his apartment in Over the Rhine. It's because those moments take his mind off his 20-year battle with HIV and how he's going to pay for his medication.

"This is all I've ever known since I found out I was HIV positive," said Hayden. "Now they're saying it might go away."

The Ohio Department of Health is cutting the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program  or OHDAP. HIV drugs can cost patients tens of thousands of dollars a year. OHDAP helps foot the bill.

Every day, Mark has to take five medications. Two of the medications help ensure the virus doesn't reproduce, but the side effects are so severe he has to take three other drugs. Last month, OHDAP decided it wasn't going to pay for the last three prescribed drugs.

State leaders said it's a nationwide problem.

In the last five years, the number of those enrolling in OHDAP has doubled, but the amount of funding hasn't changed.

"The cuts are still coming," said Amy McMahon, CEO of the Cincinnati non-profit STOP AIDS. "Some people are still being notified."

McMahon said the first round of cuts kicked in July 1st. She said she was notified on July 2nd. Hayden said he received a letter notifying him of the changes on July 28th.

"The problem with having a plan in place is that we were notified the cuts had happened after it was done," said McMahon. "So there were not processes in place to inform people and give them some time to make those shifts."

Shifts that include capping enrollment by putting clients on waiting lists based on their white blood cell count.

"Anyone who had a 500 or above count in their CD-4 level," said Kevin Drummond, Director of client services at STOP AIDS. "Those people are being reviewed to possibly be removed from the program."

Hayden emailed Governor Strickland a letter last night that expressed his frustration and disapproval of the cuts. Hayden said an aid told him on Thursday to contact the Department of Health. But Hayden said the Department of Health told him to call the Governor's office.

Hayden worries the cuts encourage more people to stop taking their medications by increasing the numbers of those who die from the disease.

"All my life, I've been told, you know, you work hard enough you can achieve your goals. You know what? I've had to come to the conclusion that I my not be able to achieve this goal," said Hayden.

There are more than 15,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in Ohio.


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