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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.
Top Legislative Priority
H.3249, S.1186 An Act Relative to HIV Screening and Prevention (Sen. Cyr; Rep. Lewis)
There are many systemic barriers in place restricting access to HIV and STI screening, treatment, and prevention. This bill removes several of these barriers by expanding access to prevention services for minors including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and the HPV vaccine; studying out-of-network insurance coverage of culturally competent HIV/STI screening services; and updating HIV routine screening laws
H.2053, S. 234 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, contraceptive use, and sexually transmitted infections.
S.1081 An Act to Authorize Public Health Workers to Pursue New Measures to Reduce Harm and Stigma for People Affected by Substance Abuse Disorder (Sen. Brownsberger)
A “safer drug consumption program” provides a space for people who use drugs to consume pre–obtained drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals or other trained staff and may provide other related services including but not limited to needle exchange, overdose prevention, and referrals to treatment and other services.
S.516 An Act Relative to Out-of-Pocket Expenses for Prescription Drug Coverage (Sen. DiDomenico)
High prescription drug copay costs are a barrier for many people who want to take PrEP to prevent HIV, and can prevent those living with HIV/AIDS from accessing medication and taking their medication as prescribed. Delaying or forgoing treatment leads to dangerous complications and costly emergency hospitalizations. This bill caps the cost of prescription copays to improve access to necessary medication.
S.546, H.522 An Act to Promote Value-Based Insurance Design in the Commonwealth (Sen. Lewis; Rep. Farley-Bouvier)
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 force patients to delay or forgo necessary healthcare leading to more intensive and expensive care. This bill establishes a state panel of experts to recommend high-value and cost-effective services, treatments, and prescription drugs and eliminates cost-sharing for these services.
H.1194, S.1225 An Act Relative to End of Life Options (Sen. L’Italien; Rep. Kafka)
At one time, an 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 and healthy lives, AIDS Action 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.
H. 3597 An Act Relative to Eliminating Discrimination in Blood Donations (Rep. Cullinane)
Any person that maintains blood donor facilities or provides blood donation services to the public shall not discriminate on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation; provided, however that such person may require proof of a negative human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test result prior to accepting blood donations. Upon providing such proof a donor shall be allowed to donate blood. For the purposes of this section the term “blood donation” shall mean whole blood donation, platelet donation or plasma donation.
H.1190, S.62 An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors (Sen. Montigny; Rep. Kahn)
Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts — also known as conversion or reparative therapy — treat homosexuality and transgender identity as mental disorders. This bill bans licensed professionals from providing fraudulent therapeutic practices that purport to change a minor’s same-sex attraction or gender identity.
H.2960, S.591 An Act to Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare (Sen. Karen Spilka; Rep. Kate Hogan)
Current insurer policies around explanation of benefits forms have the potential to violate patient privacy which can lead to patients delaying or even forgoing necessary healthcare including HIV testing, regular doctor visits, and even HIV medication. This bill protects confidentiality by allowing patients to choose where and how they receive their EOB forms, keeping confidential information between healthcare providers and their patients.
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