My name is Jaysen Foreman, and among many other things, I am HIV-positive. When I was diagnosed in 2005, I had private insurance. I started on the new triple combination antiretroviral medications. Then, as a complication of my HIV, I became severely depressed, and subsequently lost my employment and my health insurance. I saw the price of my medications — there was no way I could afford them. I thought I would have to stop taking them, and then would develop drug-resistant HIV. I was incredibly frightened, which made my depression worse, and triggered suicidal episodes.
Fortunately, my physician was aware of Ryan White and its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and connected me to those resources. I went from panicking to a seamless transition with getting my medications and being able to continue with my doctor. I received assistance with my medications from ADAP for two years. The help I’ve gotten from the Ryan White Program has kept me healthy enough to be able to work, stay productive, and give back to my community.
Now, as a peer navigator at the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) in Charlotte, I have the privilege to work with 85 HIV-positive young men and women between the ages of 13 and 25 each day that face the same fight that I do. Like many of my clients, I’m multiracial (African-American and Latino), which helps me relate to them better. I have been working in the field for four going on five years, and work very hard each day to provide the best care to my clients through Ryan White. Because our state chose not to expand coverage through Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that Ryan White stays fully funded and functional.
Even if our state was to expand Medicaid coverage, Ryan White has a lasting importance in the continuum of care such as wraparound services helping pay medical copays, insurance premiums, medication copays, or link to services such as care management, dental and vision, mental health services, or psychosocial services. The copays for medications in some of the private plans available in Charlotte can be $75-$100—too much for people with limited means.
As a certified application counselor with the ACA, I have witnessed firsthand the complicated and downright at times confusing situations to clients that cannot have an interruption of medication or medical services. The uncertainty frightens me as to the ability of some of my clients, or people I help enroll in the ACA, to stay adherent to their medication treatment and medical care. But if they can get help from Ryan White services, they will be able to do it. I have seen firsthand what Ryan White does and countless other lives that Ryan White has saved.
North Carolina ranks 8th in the nation in deaths among adults with an HIV diagnosis. The State of North Carolina has not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, an estimated 4,100 of the lowest-income HIV+ residents of North Carolina have been left out of coverage available in other states. They must rely on Ryan White funding for crucial medical care and other supportive services. In 2011, an estimated 14,731 North Carolinians received services through the Ryan White program.
Take action now!
- Tell your legislators to continue to support the Ryan White program.
- Do you live in a state that has not expanded Medicaid? Let your legislators know how important Medicaid expansion is to your state.
- Check out advocacy tools and resources for Ryan White in North Carolina.
Co-sponsors: AIDS United, Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative, Southern AIDS Coalition, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, HIVHealthReform.org, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
This campaign has been made possible by the generous support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.