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Report: State Budget Cuts Could Damage AIDS Care

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(Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – A report Wednesday says state budget cuts could leave thousands of low-income Illinois residents who have the AIDS virus with fewer choices for life-sustaining medicines.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Pat Cassidy reports, the state has reduced the number of medications available to patients. It has also put a cap on how much can be spent on drugs for the 6,000 people enrolled in the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program, or ADAP.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Pat Cassidy reports

The Chicago Tribune reports HIV/AIDS advocates fear the state’s cost-cutting will turn back advances to combat the disease by decades.

They fear a return to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s, when an HIV diagnosis often meant full-blown AIDS and an early death, the Tribune reported.

Some of the newer pill regimens will cost $2,000 a month.

The less-expensive medications are typically older, and become resistant to the disease.

The number of patients enrolled in the ADAP program has jumped 14 percent in the past year, the Tribune reported. Need for assistance has increased as people have lost their jobs and health insurance coverage over the past few years, the newspaper reported.

In another blow for HIV/AIDS patients just last month, the BEHIV AIDS service center in the Edgewater neighborhood closed its doors. The clinic at 1244 W. Thorndale Ave. said it was damaged by a loss of donations as a result of the Great Recession, and that it stood to lose much of its funding for its case management program due to changes in the distribution of federal funds.

BEHIV had served HIV/AIDS patients from the Far North Side and North Shore suburbs since 1989.

But in one piece of good news, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago announced last week that it had received a substantial grant from the advocacy group AIDS United, which in turn received a federal grant geared toward improving the lives of those with HIV/AIDS.

The grant will support a new outreach and support service called Connect2Care, which will help those living with HIV/AIDS – particularly minority groups. The AIDS Foundation will partner with four other agencies to reach those who are not receiving treatment, according to a news release.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says as of the end of 2007, there were 24,847 people with living with HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area, and an estimated 7,000 unreported cases.

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