ask Sheldon Silver:

Are You Hiding from PWAs?

For Immediate Release
Contact Bob Lederer 5-23-96
212-989-8222 before 10:00 a.m.
212-242-2163 from 10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

AIDS Activists Storm Assembly Speaker's Office, Protesting AIDS Program Cuts

On Thursday May 23rd, AIDS activists organized by Housing Works and ACT UP stormed the State Office Building in Manhattan, demanding--and obtaining--a meeting with representatives of State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to protest his refusal to restore funds cut from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) . While dozens of activists demonstrated outside, protesters inside castigated Silver's staff for the Speaker's failure to include "life-saving funds" in the Assembly-Senate budget agreed to yesterday. Earlier, building security guards had refused to allow activists to use the elevators to travel to Silver's 18th floor offices, sparking a sit-in which ended only after Silver's staff reluctantly agreed to the meeting.

Highly reliable sources told Housing Works that Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, agreed yesterday to a State budget which does not provide the supplemental funding needed to restore cuts made to ADAP. Silver's staff claimed that no final deal had been made and that the Speaker is "fighting for" ADAP. But activists point out that he has never publicly expressed support for the program, and has refused to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill in both houses to fully fund the program. The refusal to restore the ADAP funds comes despite months of community protests, including a 300-strong march April 28th on the Governor's home in the upstate town of Garrison. The activists pressed their demand for a personal meeting with Silver and vowed to continue their pressure campaign until the Governor signs a budget fully restoring the funds.

On Jan. 1, the New York AIDS Institute was forced to cut more than 70% of the drugs and nutrients it formerly provided, in order to stave off complete collapse. According to ACT UP member John Riley, "ADAP has been a victim of its own success. The highly popular program enables many people to get treatments allowing them to continue working and stay off public assistance and Medicaid. As a result, the pool of people participating has grown. Now, because the Governor and State Assembly are more interested in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations than in saving people's lives, the program is being radically cut back. These cuts are killing people."

ADAP is a program to help uninsured and underinsured people with HIV/AIDS obtain needed drugs and nutrients. It is geared to help working and middle class people with HIV and AIDS with up to $42,000 in annual income.

While other states have put significant resources into their ADAP programs, New York State's contribution to the program is extremely small ($400,000 annually). Since the cuts, the Governor's only suggestion has been that those requiring expensive drugs "spend down" their assets to qualify for Medicaid, which means quitting their jobs and impoverishing themselves to obtain needed treatments. The ADAP program is largely federally funded through the Ryan White CARE Act. Although Congress recently passed a supplemental nationwide ADAP appropriation--$9 million of which will go to New York State--that is insufficient to cover the state's estimated $25 million funding shortfall to pay for increasingly effective drugs against the disease.

Housing Works, ACT UP and other AIDS organizations will continue their coalition efforts to save this crucial program.

For background info click here.


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