As we move forward with our 2015/2016 agenda, we welcome your feedback, and encourage you to sign up for Action Alerts to get updates and opportunities to take action and have your voice heard.
2015-2016 Budget and Legislative Priorities
While once steadily declining, the number of new HIV infections appears to have plateaued over the last 4 years in Massachusetts. We have the tools to end this stagnation and tangibly reduce new infections to get to the ultimate goal of zero new infections, and we call on Massachusetts public officials to take a leadership role in this fight.
New research demonstrates the effectiveness of taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a regimen of HIV medications that can significantly reduce the risk of HIV-negative individuals getting infected. We now also have significant evidence that those already infected with HIV have a much lower likelihood of transmitting the virus when they adhere to their medication and reach viral suppression.
With the recently demonstrated efficacy of both PrEP and treatment as prevention, we can begin to move towards the ultimate goal of zero new infections. Massachusetts must commit to ensuring testing, access to treatment, support services to retain people in care, and access to PrEP, and together we can reach the goal of zero new HIV infections.
FY16 Budget Request – Project ABLE and Massachusetts Viral Hepatitis Coalition
AIDS Action requests restoration of $3 M to the line item (4512-0103) for a total of $35.2M to prevent new HIV and HCV infections and better care for people living with HIV, AIDS, and HCV. Specifically, $3 million could fund:
- HCV Prevention, Screening, Surveillance, and Treatment. $1 million of funding to fund the FY 2015 state budget requirement that DPH implement and maintain a program helping people with HCV get treatment and reducing the spread of new infections through education, outreach, and prevention services.
- HIV Prevention. $1 million to fund HIV prevention work including education and outreach on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an anti-viral medication taken by non-infected individuals that offers significant protection from the virus.
- HIV/AIDS Support Services. $1 million to fund supportive services for the growing population of people living with HIV/AIDS. Supportive services, such as transportation, case management, and nutrition programs keep people living independently in their homes and dramatically reduce transmission of the virus.
HD 1769 An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment (Sen. Montigney; Rep. Peake)
Lipodystrophy, or abnormal distribution of body fat, is a debilitating side effect of early HIV medications that still affects people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts today. This condition causes significant physical and psychological harm and has a direct impact on retaining people in care. Effective medical treatment is available and inexpensive. According to the Center for Health Information and Analysis, this coverage would add no more than ten cents annually to insurance plans. However, insurance companies regularly deny treatment claims as cosmetic and not medically necessary. This bill requires private insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission to cover treatment of lipodystrophy.
SD 1172 An Act Concerning Out-of-Pocket Expenses for Prescription Drug Coverage; (Sen. Petrucelli)
High prescription drug copay costs are a barrier for many people living with HIV/AIDS to accessing medication and taking their medication as prescribed. Delaying and forgoing treatment leads to dangerous complications and costly emergency hospitalizations. This bill calls on insurance companies to set an out-of-pocket spending limit on prescription drugs.
SD 656 An Act to Keep People Healthy by Removing Barriers to Cost-Effective Care (Sen. Lewis)
HIV/AIDS is a chronic condition and the virus can be successfully suppressed with adherence to treatment regimens. However, the high costs of service copays and deductibles can cause patients to delay or forgo necessary health care, which can lead to more intensive and expensive care. This bill establishes a state panel of experts to recommend cost-effective services, treatments, and prescription drugs for which fully-insured health plans would cover all costs.
SD 102, HD 595 An Act Relative to Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care (Sen. Spilka; Rep. Hogan)
The Affordable Care Act seeks to improve transparency in healthcare costs; however, this transparency can come at the expense of confidentiality for vulnerable populations. This bill seeks to protect access to confidential health services and prevent disclosure of sensitive health information in Explanation of Benefits forms (EOBs). EOBs are forms sent from the insurance company to the plan’s primary subscriber after medical care is received, raising privacy concerns for anyone dependent on another’s policy. This bill suggests alternatives to standard EOB procedure, giving more control to those accessing sensitive services.
SD 398 An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination (Sen. Downing & Sen. Chang-Diaz; Rep. Rushing)
While the 2012 transgender equal rights bill was a momentous step in the right direction, it did not go far enough. Transgender people can still face discrimination in public and private establishments open to the general public, including hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and parks, among other areas. It is critical that transgender people be able to access high quality medical care without fear of discrimination. This bill adds gender identity to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations.
SD 1362, HD 2436 An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (Sen. DiDomenico; Rep. O’Day & Rep. Brodeur)
Currently there are no uniform standards for sexual health education in Massachusetts and many students are never educated about sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This bill requires each school district or public school that offers sexual health education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate education including healthy relationships and healthy behaviors, contraceptive use, sexually transmitted infections, and delaying sexual activity.
HD 1674 An Act Affirming a Terminally Ill Patient’s Right to Compassionate Aid in Dying (Rep. Kafka)
At one time, a HIV/AIDS diagnosis meant days, weeks, or months of excruciating and debilitating conditions before death. While people currently living with HIV/AIDS now can live long, happy, and healthy lives, AAC strongly supports the right of those in a similar condition due to other illnesses to have the opportunity to safely self-administer lethal medication. This bill gives qualified terminally ill patients the right to obtain a prescription for medication that they may choose to self-administer for a humane and dignified death.
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