SENATE PASSES GENERAL GOVERNMENT BOND BILL
Cyr secures key investments for local infrastructure projects as well as cultural and educational initiatives
(BOSTON – 06/17/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed a $5.07 billion general government bond bill to fund construction projects related to health care, higher education, information technology, workforce development, the environment, affordable housing, and more. The bill also includes a moratorium on the construction of new prisons in Massachusetts. Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) secured $2.5 million for the Cape and Islands district that will support municipal infrastructure initiatives and arts and education programs.
Senate Passes Legislation to Increase Access to HIV Prevention Medication
Bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),
which is highly effective in preventing HIV
(BOSTON – 06/30/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday 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.
“PrEP is a game changer in HIV prevention that reduces the risk of HIV transmission by ninety-nine per cent,” 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.”
“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 legislation.”
“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.”
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.
Having passed the Senate, the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.