For people with AIDS, keeping the disease at bay can cost $1,000 a month.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend $6,282 in tax money this year to keep about $75,000 in state cash flowing to county residents with AIDS and HIV who have no insurance to pay for life-saving drugs.
While the AIDS drug program requires applicants make less than $50,000 per year, “when you’re talking about $1,000 per month in drug costs alone, $50,000 is not that much,” said Geneva Bell-Sanford, county AIDS program coordinator.
About 70 to 75 people each month get AIDS drug assistance, she said. But there are at least 1,000 people in the county with AIDS or HIV, said Wayne Mock of the San Joaquin AIDS Foundation.
Many are covered — at least for a time — by Medi-Cal, Social Security or private insurance. But when that runs out and savings run dry, the AIDS drug program kicks in.
“This is really the payer of last resort,” Bell-Sanford said.
The county acts as an administrator of the state money. But the board chose to spend $6,282 to cover the administrative costs of the program. That means keeping three “enrollment” centers in Stockton open, where people with AIDS or HIV can apply for drugs.
There are 154 AIDS drugs available through the program, doled out through 10 county pharmacies. If a person leaves the county, he or she can use the drug program in other parts of the state. Many of the 154 drugs are antidepressants or other medications meant to deal with the side effects associated with the powerful drugs used to combat AIDS and HIV.
“There was a time when people took up to 20 different pills,” Bell-Sanford said. “But they’ve merged a lot of them, and it’s down to as little as one per day.”
California has the best AIDS drug “formulary” in the country, she said, meaning that those 154 drugs are the very best and should cover most of what ails patients.
Where to enroll
• San Joaquin County Public Health, 1601 E. Hazelton Ave., in Stockton
• San Joaquin County AIDS Foundation, 4330 N. Pershing Ave., Ste. B-3, in Stockton
• Community Medical Center, 701 E. Channel St., in Stockton