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AIDS Medication Program Out of Money

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RALEIGH — The state's federally funded AIDS medicationprogram has run out of money. Local health leaders met in Raleigh Tuesdayto decide how they can help the dozens of people who apply for the programeach day.

When the meeting ended, there still were no answers to the problem. Theproblem, in a nutshell, is that there are drugs available to help thosewho are dying of AIDS. It it doesn't promise a cure, but is viewed withinthe medical community as the next best thing. Now, since hundreds of people dying of AIDS can't afford the drug, it is out of reach withfederal assistance money gone

The Wake HIV/AIDS Care Coalition met Tuesday after receiving thedevastating news. The North Carolina AIDS Drug Assistance Program will nolonger be able to give a combination of medications known as a "cocktail"to new patients. The drugs have been known to dramatically improve andextend the lives of many.

The result is that health care providers and social service agenciesnow face the daunting task of turning away people who need the treatment.

Jacquelyn Clymore of the AIDS Service Agency says this will takeprogress back two years or more.

Directors of the drug assistance program say they thought their fundingwould last until just recently. Arthur Okrent, assistant director of theprogram, says costs and the number of patients have risen dramatically.

The drugs are very expensive. They can cost as much as $1,500 per monthdepending on the dosage one requires. The state program does not expect toget any more money from the federal government until April, so there willbe many people turned away.

Those people who are already in the program will continue to getassistance.

Photographer:Ron Pittman

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