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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.
FY2020 Budget Request – Project ABLE and Massachusetts Viral Hepatitis Coalition
Advocates Ask for $32.3 M in Funding for the HIV/AIDS/HCV Line Item in the Massachusetts State Budget: An Increase of $1.5 M
- $1 M for Syringe Service Programs
There are 7 programs in Massachusetts that have achieved local approval but have not yet received funding.
- $500 K for PrEP health navigation
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a drug that helps prevent HIV transmission. 7,000 people are on PrEP in Massachusetts and the Department of Public Health (DPH) estimates that there are up to 35,000 people who are at risk of HIV infection who should be on PrEP but are not.
What does the HIV/AIDS/HCV Line Item pay for?
- Services for people living with HIV/AIDS & HCV like Health Navigation and Housing.
- Syringe Service Programs and holistic harm reduction drug user health programs.
- Testing for HIV, HCV and STIs.
- Demand for these services has only grown and expanded in the last 3 years while funding has not, leaving service organizations to provide more services to more people who need them with less funding.
Key Facts for HIV
- DPH reported 129 new cases of HIV among injection-drug users in the Merrimack Valley outbreak cluster since the beginning of 2015.
- Racial disparities persist in access to healthcare: while only 16% of the population in MA are Black, Hispanic or Latino, those populations are represented in 55% of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2017.
Key Facts for Hepatitis C (HCV)
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health receives 7,000-10,000 newly diagnosed case reports of HCV infection annually.
- Since 2007, an increasing number are among young people who inject drugs: approximately 2,400 cases annually are 15-29 years old.
- There are 250,000 estimated people living with HCV in Massachusetts.
Key Facts for Opioids
- According to the CDC, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
- Opioid-related deaths in MA are steadily increasing.
2019 – 2020 Top Legislative Priorities
HIV/AIDS related legislation
HD.1945, SD.2115 An Act relative to HIV prevention access for young adults (Rep. Lewis and Sen. Cyr)
The current statute permits minors to consent to healthcare for many stigmatized services including treatment of STIs & HIV, but not prevention services such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This bill adds prevention services to the healthcare minors may consent to without parental permission, removing a significant barrier to critical care. In July of 2018, the FDA approved the use of PrEP for minors and recommended its use for those at risk of HIV infection.
HD.3819 An Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment (Rep. Fernandes)
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.
HD.1964, SD.1894 An Act relative to Massachusetts home care eligibility (Rep. Peake and Sen. Jehlen)
As people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are living longer and aging, some are also experiencing early onset of age-related illness and impairment. The bill would expand access to homecare services before the age of 60 to address health needs of long term survivors.
HD.171, SD.395 An Act Relative to End of Life Options (Rep. Kafka and Sen. Brownsberger)
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, we support the right of those in a similar conditions 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.
HD.3932, SD.1739, An Act improving Hepatitis C screening (Rep. Lewis and Sen. Montigny)
Currently screening requirements for Hepatitis C (HCV) only apply to those born between 1945 and 1965, also known as the baby boomers. Due to the large increase of new HCV infections, especially amongst young people and people who inject drugs (PWID), this bill would expand that screening protocol to include anyone over the age of 18.
LGBTQ related legislation
HD.2848 An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors (Rep. Khan)
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 and often abusive practices that purport to change a minor’s same-sex attraction or gender identity.
HD.827 An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (Rep. O’Day and 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 and LGBTQ inclusive education including healthy relationships, contraceptive use, and sexually transmitted infections.
HD.1126, SD.2094 An Act to collect data on LGBTQI prisoners held in restrictive housing (Rep. Balser and Sen. Cyr)
Although LGBTQI prisoners are often placed in restrictive housing for their purported protection, restrictive housing does not protect them from harm. LGBTQI people are sent to restrictive housing more frequently than the general population. This bill will require state and county correctional facilities to collect data on voluntarily disclosed sexual orientation and gender identity of prisoners placed in restrictive housing.
Housing related legislation
HD.1263, SD.667 An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families (Rep. Khan, Sen. Chandler)
Obtaining a state identification card is a critical first step for youth and adults experiencing homelessness to accomplish typical life tasks and access opportunities. This bill calls on the Registry of Motor Vehicles to waive the $25 fee for Mass IDs for applicants who are experiencing homelessness, and to accept alternative verifications of Massachusetts residency from state agencies and social service agencies.
HD.2776 An Act providing a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness (Rep. Pignatelli)
People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts: the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property.
HD.2395 An Act to further provide a rental arrearage program (Rep. Decker)
People who are unhoused or unstably housed often cannot build up savings, pursue education, maintain good health, or adequately feed themselves and their children. In addition, those facing housing instability frequently find themselves on the brink of falling behind on rent or mortgage payments, which can then lead to eviction, and force a household into homelessness. This bill would fund a new resource to provide the necessary, swift assistance to remain in their homes.
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