A big win for our Toledo Advocates equals a bigger win for city employees
A budget crisis in Ohio's HIV/AIDS Drug Assistance Program last summer forced drastic cost containment measures that are still in place today. As a result of these measures, more than 500 HIV-positive Ohioans were removed or put on a waiting list for the program that provides access to anti-retrovirals and other medications that are keeping them alive.
That impact was felt among HIV-positive individuals in Northwest Ohio, including City of Toledo employees. Even though participating in the City's health insurance, that plan excluded coverage for HIV medications. Lack of coverage by the City's plan and disenrollment from OHDAP meant that these individuals were faced with paying tens of thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets.
Lack treatment for HIV/AIDS is life-threatening and increases the possibility of further transmission of the virus.
"It is shocking that in 2011 in the U.S. in Ohio and locally., there are HIV-positive individuals still fighting for medications to keep them alive," stated ARC Ohio Toledo Director Julie Embree. "This is unacceptable, and we are committed to addressing this disparity."
ARC Ohio led the charge to help address this issue. Working with University of Toledo Medical Center HIV Clinic (UTMC), the Ohio AIDS Coalition and others, we presented our concerns to Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and his Human Resources Department. That presentation included our plea to extend coverage to include HIV medications. Within eight weeks of our initial meeting, the City of Toledo changed its medical coverage policy to include all HIV medications.
"We commend the Mayor and City on this decision," says Embree.
ARC Ohio is grateful to Ohio AIDS Coalition, UTMC HIV Clinic and all our advocacy partners for helping us achieve this success. It means the difference between care and treatment, or illness and death, for individuals in our community.