COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - People living with HIV are calling to get prescriptions re-filled only to find the Collier County Health Department's pharmacy closed last Friday for good.
These cuts are having an affect on those whose lives depend on the medication.
John, who doesn't want to be identified, has been HIV positive for 10 years. He is one of hundreds who are impacted by the closing of this pharmacy at the Collier County Health Department.
Deb Millsap is the spokesperson for the Collier Co. Health Department. She says, "The Department of Health has been asked to downsize and cutback on our services to save tax payers dollars and this was one of the efforts that had to occur as a result of it."
In the past, patients were able to come right to the window at the pharmacy to pick up their medications. Now, they have to send their prescriptions to Tallahassee.
In all, 13 pharmacies across the state were forced to close.
Millsap says, "We're trying to make the process as seamless as possible. We'll send the prescription up to the state pharmacy, they will mail it back to us and our person will still give the medications out."
But John says, "There's no guarantee when they arrive."
The Collier County Health Department ordered three shipments of HIV medications for 300 patients. One box arrived Wednesday, but John's medications weren't there.
"If a person who is on HIV medication goes for any length of time without taking your medication, the body rejects what your body has been immune to," says John.
Deb Millsap says they expect the HIV medication to get in the next few days, but for John, the pharmacy closing is just an example of the direction the state is heading when it comes to helping those with the virus.
"We're not moving forward, we're moving backward in this situation," says John.
The state Health Department guarantees all HIV patients will get their required med, under the Ryan White Care Act, but other medications for blood pressure or diabetes will need to be filled at a different pharmacy.
"That's where the case managers say they're going to help. I hope they help, but it leaves you totally in the black. You don't know what's going on and its scary because it's not just the HIV it's the other things that can catch up with you that wins your immune system and puts you at risk," says John.
The state has set up a website to help patients, like John, find other medications that the pharmacies no longer supply. That website is www.needymeds.org