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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
I rise today in support of Amendment 23 offered by Mr. Hastings, my good friend from Florida, which would help people living with HIV/AIDS afford treatment through the vital AIDS Drug Assistance Program. This program, known as ADAP, provides HIV-related prescription drugs to low-income people with HIV/AIDS who have limited or no prescription drug coverage.
This essential national program is undeniably in the midst of a devastating funding crisis. The combination of an economic recession, State budget cuts, and increased testing and diagnosis of HIV have created the perfect storm against ADAP's fiscal situation--more patients are requiring ADAP treatment as the program has been emptied out. This has resulted in drastic cuts in services provided and thousands in 10 different States have ended up on waiting lists to receive these necessary lifesaving drugs.
In my own State of Florida, with the largest of all such waiting lists, 3,276 individuals languish without access to affordable lifesaving treatment. Our State has lowered financial eligibility down to 300 percent of the Federal poverty level, while at the same time reducing the formulary for the patients who still qualify.
This is an enormous problem for a State with the third highest HIV/AIDS population and the highest rate of new infections in the country. You may be shocked to know that the new infection rate in south Florida is higher than in Africa. We cannot let this happen in our own backyard to our neighbors and our constituents.
Though our administration has demonstrated that funding ADAP is a priority, we just keep hitting the wall. Current funding levels for this program are unsustainable and we must do more to help. This amendment would help give the ADAP program a much-needed boost and help thousands of patients access the treatment they so desperately need.
In this budgetary climate, we must make smart and sensible decisions. Where we can afford to make an administrative haircut, if the tradeoff is saving lives, it is our moral imperative to do so. By reallocating these greatly needed funds to save ADAP, we ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS in our communities can access the treatment they need to stay alive while we stem the tide of new infections and save our Nation money in the long term.
I strongly urge you to support the efforts of this responsible and compassionate amendment.
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