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Vitale/Rice Bill Would Bring $5 Million To Aids Program

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Ronald L. Rice which would appropriate $5 million for the AIDS Drug Distribution Program (ADDP) was unanimously approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“HIV/AIDS has become this century’s bubonic plague, and without education, treatment and support from the State, it will continue to consume too many too soon,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “We have to step in, and provide relief to those who are suffering from the disease, and a means to contain the disease, or we will continue to see a rise in the AIDS epidemic.”

The bill, S-1803, would provide $2.3 million in funding to the State-maintained ADDP to cover a projected shortfall and continue to provide low-income HIV/AIDS patients with medication, and $2.7 million for rapid AIDS testing, with $850,000 allocated for testing and $1.85 million allocated for care and treatment of newly diagnosed AIDS patients. The bill was amended from the original $10 million appropriated for AIDS/HIV treatment because the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHS) was able to identify overlapping funds from the original bill; however, the sponsors noted that State funding is necessary because federal funds still fall short of meeting New Jersey’s needs in combating the disease.

“People in urban areas are struggling with HIV/AIDS, and we cannot turn our backs on their plight” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “The AIDS Drug Distribution Program provides life-sustaining and life-prolonging medications to low-income individuals with no other option available to them, as well as necessary programs to preempt the disease. We have a responsibility to our urban residents, and I will make sure that the responsibility is met.”

The bill was approved by the Senate Health Committee in October. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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