No, five grand per month is not what I earn. Nor is it, as some claim, what I outlay monthly on my grooming or clothing. Five thousand dollars a month is what someone could expect to pay for HIV medication in Broward County.
If you don’t have insurance that is the minimum it would cost you for the crucial medications that would keep you alive. If you have insurance, it’s a different story. Otherwise, five grand is your bottom line – not including doctor’s visits or anything other than the pills themselves.
Since many people here in Florida don’t have medical coverage, and state AIDS programs are completely underfunded, then you are pretty much screwed.
In this economy, you would be very lucky to be pulling in $5,000 per month. Would it be possible for anyone to expect someone to spend their entire paycheck solely on meds without even taking into account basic living expenses?
Well the answer is yes. Yes, it is very possible to expect because, as with every healthcare system all over the world, it is flawed. If you earn below a certain amount, you can be eligible for a program that will cover your meds. However, once you exceed that cap, you will be dropped. So realistically without insurance, if you exceed the cap, the only way to do it and to pay for your meds would be to pull in the salary of a banker.
Why does this happen? Well partly due to the fact the state can’t pay for everyone’s meds who don’t have insurance. The money simply isn’t there.
The bigger question, however, is how can the drug companies justify the expense, when countries all over the world including the UK offer HIV meds for free? Well that in itself is an explanation. The US HIV positive individuals are largely contributing to the funding for the drugs for all over the world!
As World AIDS day arrives, we can look back over 30 years of a disease that has changed the face of the globe and put the gay community’s progress back immeasurably. The question everyone asks is why has a cure not been found? Why is there still no complete vaccine?
We hear every so often in the news about “being close to a cure,” about vaccines, and about new ways of using drugs to prevent infection in the first place including the use of Truvada. Yet realistically, there seems to be a major stick when it comes to the cure.
Many argue this is because the drug companies don’t want to find a cure. They are making far too much money off the drugs they offer currently. In addition as highlighted by Christian Alexander in the Florida Agenda a few weeks ago, they are no longer focused on producing new medications. Instead, they are recombining and configuring older medications to ensure that patents exist and that generics can’t be offered at a lower cost in their place.
From an outsider to the pharmaceutical industry, as many of us are, it seems the companies are so busy redesigning the drugs that they have lost sight of the aim of drugs in the first place; to help keep people alive.
The worrying part of this perceived loss of focus is found in those for whom the new combinations haven’t worked . Their only hope now is a miracle. These people are not responding to the old drugs in new packaging, just as they didn’t respond the regime in its old format. They are asking the question we all should be asking–where are the new meds?
Many people are still arguing that the medical research community has all but abandoned the search for a cure, saying that a vaccine and treatment are more viable routes to take because many people are able to survive due to antiviral drugs, turning HIV into a chronic condition rather than a death sentence.
In the news this week alone, there has been talk of a cure. The information comes from a man who had treatment for leukemia and through an intense bone marrow procedure, now tests as HIV negative. Though promising, this type of treatment is not logistically possible as a cure. In addition, it is extremely risky.
The reason it was successful is because the donor was in the 1% of people who are naturally immune to HIV. Scientists have noted that these special donors lack the CCR5 gene, which is a protein on the surface of immune cells that the virus uses as an entry portal.
This has led scientists to explore this further, yet they are clear to say it could be years, if ever, that a cure is found. All of which leads us back to the question of why? With so much information, generated by the discoveries gathered over 30 years, shouldn’t there be a clearer goal of an AIDS-free generation in sight?
Finance is always key. According the New York Times just this week, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says a cure is one of its top priorities, this year awarding grants that could total $70 million. More grants are coming. California’s stem-cell agency has committed a total of $38 million to three research teams over five years to fund projects intended to find a cure.
Companies like Merck, Gilead Sciences, Sangamo BioSciences and Calimmune have begun research.
As we observe World Aids Day, we have to remember those lost, and stand united in finding a cure. Donate money, talk to your doctors and do your research. Remember the one pill-a-day myth may not apply to you and, even if it does, you may need $5,000 a month to pay for it.
Alex Vaughn is the Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Agenda. He can be reached at editor@FloridaAgenda.com