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Sunday February 14th, 2016 9:50AM

Ga. eliminates waiting list for HIV/AIDS drugs

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- Poor and uninsured people in Georgia who need medication to treat HIV and AIDS will no longer need to be placed on a waiting list.

Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said Friday that the state has eliminated a waiting list that had grown as a poor economy caused people to lose their jobs and health insurance and because of more aggressive HIV testing. Created in July 2010, the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program grew to more than 1,600 people, at one point becoming the largest such list in the country.

"The reduction of our wait list to zero is a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering where we were in 2011," Fitzgerald said.

The state erased the list in part by using $8.4 million in federal emergency funding. More than 350 patients previously enrolled in the program were placed into an insurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions, part of the new federal health care overhaul. That shift freed up more resources in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Virginia now has the largest waiting list with 275 people, according to a report from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said state and federal officials deserve recognition for eliminating Georgia's waiting list. But he worried that if Congress makes big budget cuts, Georgia could lose money for its program and the waiting list could return. Waiting lists for the program have been used three times in recent decades.

"I really hope it doesn't come back a fourth time," Graham said.
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