THE BLOG
07/01/2010 06:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Governor Pat Quinn Saves AIDS Drugs Program From Illinois Budget Wreck

Guess what?

In the belching, burning wreckage of the Illinois budget, a survivor, miraculously, emerged.

Governor Pat Quinn announced today that state funding for the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program would be spared.

In fact, Quinn will be helping more people.

The program, which provides life-saving HIV medications to low-income people with HIV, will be sufficiently funded to "serve approximately 4,500 clients a month - an increase of 400" recipients, avoiding an advisory group-recommended waiting list.

"We thank Governor Quinn for underscoring the importance of sustaining access to lifesaving HIV medications," said Mark Ishaug, President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Quinn today did, however, unsheathe and swing a meat cleaver at other state programs, slicing $1.4 billion. But medicine will continue to flow to ill individuals.

In the last nine months, the ADAP program, which supplies medications to low-income, HIV-positive Illinois residents who lack the money to purchase the costly medicine, provided HIV/AIDS medications to an average of 4,165 Illinoisans per month.

In May, a state advisory panel, the Medical Issues Advisory Board, comprised of doctors, pharmacists, legal experts, advocates, and people with HIV, advises the Illinois Department of Public Health on ADAP policy, recommended that Illinois institute a waiting list for ADAP because program costs are far outstripping available revenue.

The recommendation ignited stinging criticism from lawmakers and HIV/AIDS activists.

"Putting people infected with the HIV/AIDS virus on a waiting list for medication is like putting them on death's row. I urge Governor Quinn to reject the Medical Issues Advisory Board's recommendation to create a waiting list for HIV/AIDS medication," said House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

"People of color will be most impacted by a closed program and waiting list," said Rev. Doris Green, AFC director of correctional health and community affairs. "Two out of three people using Illinois ADAP are African American or Latino."

The administration's budget released today did not, however, specify funding amounts for any programs within public health, saying details would be released by the end of July.

"We eagerly await detailed budget information for all HIV programs and services and hope the Administration adequately funds a full spectrum of activities from prevention to housing and ADAP," said Ishaug.

Though Quinn's budget seems to spare ADAP funding, $17 million was gouged from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which supports critical HIV/AIDS and public health services, was part of the Governor's broader budget cuts announced today. No HIV programs were specifically listed for funding reductions. We'll see.

At his press conference, Quinn, however, warned that further budget cuts are possible as the state grapples with a $13 billion deficit, including $6 billion in unpaid bills to state vendors who have been waiting six months or more and plunging revenues.

"The state budget is unsustainable and a cause of concern," said John Peller, AFC's Director of Government Relations.

Still, Quinn, for the moment, has averted a crisis in the lives of some very poor, very sick people.

He deserves our thanks for this bit of good news.