Ines Owens

Support Restoration of Funds to the Grady HIV/AIDS Contract

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Ines Owens
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Dear Chairman England and Chairman Tillery:

Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication during these unprecedented times. We appreciate your commitment to Georgia and your ongoing efforts to ensure taxpayer dollars are appropriated efficiently and effectively. While we understand these are difficult times and hard decisions will be made, we encourage you to preserve programs affecting direct patient care. It is imperative now more than ever to appropriate funds for our health care programs that provide essential and lifesaving services.

The Department of Public Health has included an elimination of one of these key programs in their FY21 budget proposal. We respectfully ask that the DPH proposed elimination of the Grady Health System HIV/AIDS contract of $1,545,705 be restored in the FY21 budget. These funds are matched with federal Medicaid supplemental funds, so the total loss (state and federal) would be approximately $4.7 million dollars in annual funding. Added to that would be the loss of funding from the Ryan White Act, which depends on meeting Maintenance of Effort requirements.

The elimination of these state funds will start a domino effect that virtually ends the ability of the Grady Infectious Disease Program to care for thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS. This will lead to an increased spread of HIV in Georgia. It will also reduce the state’s ability to respond to future infectious disease outbreaks, as the program provides training for specialized infectious disease clinicians, like those leading the charge against COVID-19.

The Grady Infectious Disease Program is one of the largest, most comprehensive HIV clinical care sites in the country, serving approx. 6,500 under and uninsured patients from across the state. The center is a nationally renowned teaching site for the training of infectious disease physicians and is a major site of HIV/AIDS clinical research. It is the largest provider of HIV care in Georgia and plays a critical role in efforts to end the epidemic.

Georgia is ranked 1st among states for new diagnoses of HIV infection. The HIV epidemic is a major public health issue in the state, and the Southeast region is the most impacted by HIV in the U.S. The Grady Infectious Disease Program serves the 20-county metro Atlanta area, including four counties with the greatest incidence of HIV in the country as identified by President Trump’s End the HIV Epidemic initiative. To put that in perspective, the rate (per 100,000) of new HIV diagnoses from 2005-2015 in Fulton County was more than double the rates in New York City and San Francisco.

In addition to the large volume of patients who receive treatment and the comprehensive scope of services provided, the patient population cared for is highly complex, both clinically and socially:

  • Leading provider of care for HIV exposed newborns, caring for approx. 200 infants annually
  • The Family and Youth Clinic is the only Ryan White provider for youth in Georgia. It takes care of children and youth living with HIV from across the state and constitutes the largest stand-alone facility for pediatric and adolescent HIV care in the U.S.
  • 66% of patients have advanced, symptomatic HIV disease (AIDS). Their treatment must continue to achieve or remain at undetectable levels – meaning they cannot spread HIV
  • 43% are uninsured, 30% Medicaid
  • 52% live below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), 80% live below 200% FPL
  • African Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV and represent 84% of patients
  • 6% are age 50 or older; 71% are male

As representatives of Georgia’s citizens served by this essential and lifesaving program, we encourage the Georgia General Assembly to restore the program funding completely. The future of Grady’s Infectious Disease Program and the lives of our citizens depend on it.

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