Massachusetts Senate Passes Legislation To Increase Access To HIV Prevention Medication

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In full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media from the Senate President’s office. (stock photo)


BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, June 30, passed legislation which would increase access to the life-saving HIV prevention medication pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known
as PrEP, by allowing pharmacists to prescribe it to patients on a short-term basis.

This important bill, which was passed on the last day of Pride Month, will support the Commonwealth’s efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV, which continues to disproportionately affect members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and low-income individuals.

“Access to PrEP is a public health concern which must be looked at through an equity lens,” said Senate
President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill will help communities that have been impacted by the
HIV/AIDS epidemic, protect our residents, and work to reduce the likelihood of a future outbreak. I
would like to thank Senator Cyr for his attention to this issue and for continuing to ensure that the
Massachusetts Senate acts in defense of medical equity, and Senator Rodrigues for his support for this

Having passed the Senate, the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

“With the pandemic exposing gaps in patient access to necessary health care services, the Senate’s
passage of this legislation will enhance the role that our neighborhood pharmacies continue to play
throughout this public health crisis and expand access to PrEP, a lifesaving HIV prevention medication,
that will protect thousands of individuals across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues
(D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud the Senate President for
her strong support and Senator Cyr for his unwavering advocacy and leadership on this vitally important
public health issue that will address existing health care inequities by helping those who for too long have
been disproportionately impacted and underserved.”

“PrEP is a game changer in HIV prevention that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 99%,” said Senator Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), lead sponsor of the bill. “While there has been
great progress in managing HIV since the virus was first identified, tens of thousands of people continue to contract HIV each year, and gay and bisexual men, especially gay and bisexual men of color, are
disproportionately impacted. Increasing access to this vital treatment by enabling pharmacists to prescribe PrEP and improving access to care by requiring pharmacists to link customers to medical care will bolster the Commonwealth’s overall public health and address health care inequities.”

According to the CDC, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use by about 99
percent when taken as prescribed and does not have serious side effects.

Despite the availability of this highly effective HIV prevention medication, the CDC reports that only around 25 per cent of the individuals who are recommended to take PrEP currently do so.

Currently, Massachusetts residents must receive a doctor’s prescription to obtain PrEP. By allowing PrEP to be prescribed by a pharmacist, individuals who are at heightened risk of HIV transmission will be able
to more easily and more quickly obtain this life-saving medication.

Under the bill, pharmacists would be allowed to dispense up to 60-day supplies of PrEP to individual patients. The bill requires that pharmacists who prescribe PrEP work with the patient’s primary care provider to ensure that the patient receives ongoing support.

This bill aligns Massachusetts with nine other states that have already empowered pharmacists to
prescribe PrEP. Peer-reviewed academic studies have recommended the adoption of this policy, and in
Massachusetts this proposal has been championed by providers that serve the LGBTQIA+ population.

While new HIV cases have declined considerably in Massachusetts, there continue to be hundreds of new cases each year.

According to statistics collected by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), in 2019 a total of 591 Massachusetts residents were diagnosed with a new HIV infection.

As of that year, DPH reported that a total of 23,291 Massachusetts residents were living with HIV.


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