The Florida Department of Health’s AIDS Insurance Continuation Program, which provides assistance to HIV-positive people who can no longer maintain private health coverage, has been struggling financially. Last summer, it had to institute a waiting list in response to an increased caseload, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. In South Florida alone, nearly 50,000 people are living with the virus.

According to the article, the $14 million program had a shortage of more than $1 million on July 1 and began the waiting list in August. As a temporary fix, Florida health officials diverted $1 million from other services to maintain the health insurance of more than 143 people on the waiting list. However, in the months it took to siphon that funding from other programs, some people on the list were forced to apply for public care such as Florida Medicaid and the federally funded Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

Health officials are not sure how long the budget crisis will last, and they’re worried that patients will skip their HIV treatments if they cannot afford them.

Tom Liberti, Florida’s HIV/AIDS chief, said that to end the waiting list the program must find unused HIV funding, receive a federal grant for 2010 or receive an additional $1 million from the state budget.