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As State HIV Medication Budget Cuts Loom…

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Texas HIV Medication Program Advisory Committee disbanded and people living with HIV/AIDS no longer allowed to participate in oversight of program.

HOUSTON, TX – Texans who rely on the Texas HIV Medication Program’s (THMP) assistance to provide life-saving medications are in jeopardy of becoming the next in a long list of sacrifices deemed necessary in order to balance the state’s $27 billion budget shortfall. In order to keep pace with population growth and meet the needs of current clients, the Texas Department of State Health Services estimates the medication program will need approximately $22.7 million in additional funding. In the face of this fiscal crisis, the state health department shocked many services providers and consumers with a recent announcement that the community oversight committee, known as THMP’s Advisory Committee, had been abolished.

The THMP Advisory Committee was created in 1989 in order to advise the Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner and program staff in the development of procedures and guidelines regarding the program that provides lifesaving medications for people with HIV. Consisting of physicians, hospital administrators, pharmacists, social workers and consumers, the committee has met regularly to review the program’s financial stability and effectiveness. In September 2010, in what was scheduled to be an official meeting of the THMP Advisory Committee, stakeholders were informed that the committee could not conduct official business because the committee’s authority as a planning body had expired due to an “oversight” in posting and approving the necessary and administrative rules required under Texas law. To date, there has not been any community notification of the Texas Department State Health Services’ intent to reinstate this oversight committee.

Katy Caldwell, Executive Director of Legacy Community Health Services, believes the committee plays an important role in shaping policies that meet the needs of people living with HIV in Texas. “As one of the largest community providers of HIV/AIDS services in Texas, Legacy believes that input from professionals and community members is essential to ensure that the THMP and the state health department are responding to the ever changing HIV/AIDS epidemic in our state. Given the fiscal crisis this program is facing because of our state’s budget shortfalls, Legacy feels this committee is essential in providing transparency and guidance.”

As the Texas Senate Finance Committee began deliberations on the states budget this week in Austin, officials at the Texas Department of State Health Services highlighted the THMP’s expected shortfall over the next two years in their presentation to Texas Senators.  While it is clear there are difficult choices ahead for lawmakers writing the state’s budget, it is not clear if the Texas Department of State Health Services will allow stakeholders and members of the HIV/AIDS community to have a voice in the decisions that will affect the lives of thousands of Texans living with HIV/AIDS.

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