US Congress passed the CARE Act in 1990 in response to a dramatically growing need for resources to combat the AIDS epidemic. One of the programs contained in the Act was the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a federally-funded but state-maintained and managed program primarily concerned with providing medication for low-income HIV/AIDS patients. While ADAP programs across the country reached one-third of all patients in 2007, these programs are now in budgetary danger due to the economic recession, state budgetary constraints, the rising cost of healthcare generally, and longer life expectancies associated with current highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This paper first evaluates the current state of ADAP, its strengths and weaknesses, and examines its sustainability in the short term if short-term measures are taken. Concluding that such measures would not lead to long-term sustainability, this paper then argues for a long-term solution to ADAP’s current problems, namely a national, centralized ADAP standard for budgetary and administrative matters. Such a program would increase the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of current ADAP programs by employing more efficient, standard policies and allowing larger, wholesale purchases of costly HAART medications. Moreover, a national policy would address the disparity that currently exists in ADAP programs today with regard to both minorities and those on the waiting lists for treatment. The institution of a national ADAP program would certainly face many political hurdles. Consequently, this paper also looks to a recent political dispute, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for guidance. Using the passage of the ACA as an example could light the path for passage of a national ADAP standard. Ultimately, this would lead to a more effective and sustainable program for HIV/AIDS patients in the United States.
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