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PrEP Access and Coverage Expansion Act introduced in Congress

Bill seeks to provide prevention meds to uninsured

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(Photo via Flickr)

A bill expanding access and coverage to fund uninsured patients’ access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the proven HIV prevention medication, was introduced in both bodies of Congress on July 17.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced the PrEP Access and Coverage Act in the House while the Senate version was introduced by California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

The legislation would create a grant program to fund uninsured patients’ access to this critical medication, and would cover services related to treatment.

“For too many in our country, lack of insurance coverage and steep costs have put PrEP out of reach. That needs to change,” Harris said in a statement. “Nearly four decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis that took so many lives and caused countless others to live in fear, we can and will stop the spread of this disease.”

“No American should contract and suffer from HIV simply because they cannot afford preventative medicine. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to expand access to PrEP. We have the medical resources to end the HIV epidemic – now we must ensure that every American, regardless of their income or identity, can access them.”

The bill would require all public and private health insurance plans to cover PrEP, as well as all required tests and follow-up visits, without a copay, just as the Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover contraception and other preventive services. It would also fund a grant program to assist states, territories, and tribal communities in facilitating access to PrEP for people who lack insurance. Additionally, the bill would prohibit companies selling life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people who take PrEP and fund a public education fund.

“The PrEP Access and Coverage Act is a bold step towards ending the HIV epidemic once and for all. It will help to ensure that PrEP – a crucial tool in fighting HIV and AIDS – can be accessed by the communities that need it most. Because of lack of awareness, inability to access culturally competent health care and associated costs, very few people take PrEP, particularly those at highest risk of infection: gay/bi men of color, trans women, youth and women of color,”said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “This Act would go a long way towards ending these disparities. It’s good for the public health and it makes enormous financial sense. It’s a lot cheaper to prevent the spread of HIV than it is to treat people with HIV. We applaud Congressman Schiff for his foresighted leadership.” 

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Los Angeles

Black AIDS Institute appoints Toni Newman as interim CEO

As Toni Newman steps into her new role at BAI, she will be one of only a few Black Trans women to head a non-profit in the nation

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Toni Newman (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – The Board of Directors of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) announced the appointment of Toni Newman as its Interim Chief Executive Officer and Dr. Kemal M. Atkins as Managing Director this past week.

Newman is currently the Interim Executive Director at LYRIC – a non-profit in San Francisco, California that focuses on advancing the community and creating social change for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth through education, career training and health advocacy. 

Dr. Atkins has been engaged to help further build infrastructure and management processes at BAI. Dr. Atkins, who will serve as a consultant on a temporary basis, has an extensive background in higher education and non-profit leadership where his expertise in crisis management, such as leading institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and expertise in building national wellness health models will provide much-needed program direction for BAI.

Founded in 1999, the mission of BAI is to stop the AIDS epidemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals to confront HIV. In its mission statement, the organization states that “BAI envisions a world where all Black people are free and flourishing without HIV and AIDS, free of stigma and shame, where Black health and well-being are paramount. With a foundation in advocacy and policy work, BAI works towards improving the health and wellness of Black people through research, community efforts, and clinical work.

As she steps into her new role at BAI, she will be one of only a few Black Trans women to head a non-profit in the nation.

Ms. Newman is a distinguished Faculty Member at the Transgender Strategy Center in Los Angeles, where she advises non-profit organizations on engagement with transgender and nonconforming communities. In addition, she is the Chair of the Board of Directors for TransCanWork based in Los Angeles.

“Ms. Newman has a wealth of knowledge in non-profit management, budget and finance, and human resources and operations,” BAI stated in its statement. “We’re excited that she has agreed to serve as our Interim CEO as we continue implementing our transition plan to find a permanent, innovative executive staff leader.”

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California

Ohio added to ‘Restricted’ travel list for California state employees

“Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period,” said Bonta. “When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans California must act.”

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Photo Credit: State of California Department of Justice

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday that — effective Sept. 30, 2021 — California will restrict state-funded travel to Ohio as a result of new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recently enacted in the state.

Specifically, provisions of the new legislation, Ohio House Bill 110 (HB 110), will allow medical providers in the state to deny care to LGBTQ+ Americans, including Californians traveling in Ohio. The new restrictions on state-funded travel to Ohio announced today are required by California Assembly Bill 1887 (AB 1887), which passed in 2016.

“Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period,” said Bonta. “Whether it’s denying a prescription for medication that prevents the spread of HIV, refusing to provide gender-affirming care, or undermining a woman’s right to choose, HB 110 unnecessarily puts the health of Americans at risk. Critically, the law runs afoul of Assembly Bill 1887. When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, the California Department of Justice must act. That’s why — in line with the law — we’re adding Ohio to California’s state-funded travel restrictions list.”

Assemblymember Evan Low, the Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ issued a statement in support of Bonta’s action;

“Ohio’s decision to condone attacks on the health of its nearly 400,000 LGBTQ+ residents was widely opposed by the state’s medical community. It’s plain that this law only serves to discriminate,” said Low, “We will never put Californians at risk of falling victim to the same toxic standard by supporting the use of taxpayer dollars for travel in places where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is the law of the land.”

In a statement released Friday by his office, Bonta noted;

Despite increasing awareness of and respect for the inherent dignity of LGBTQ+ people, there has been a recent, dangerous wave of discriminatory new legislation signed into law in states across the country that directly works to roll back hard-won anti-discrimination protections. Many states pushing these new discriminatory laws are already on California’s travel restrictions list, which with the addition of Ohio will now grow to a total of 18 states. Ohio’s HB 110 is particularly troublesome in that it allows medical providers to deny important healthcare services to any patient over the entire course of the patient’s treatment.

The law is applicable to a wide range of important services, including nursing and physician services, counseling and social work, psychological and psychiatric services, surgery, and the provision of pharmaceuticals. The law further takes steps to protect any medical practitioner or healthcare institution from suffering any consequences — whether civil, criminal, or administrative — for declining to participate in or pay for critical healthcare. Although HB 110 does contain a provision that suggests medical practitioners should try to transfer a patient where appropriate, the law offers no real protection because the language is discretionary and does not require action to help the patient.

In enacting AB 1887, the California Legislature determined that California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. To that end, the law restricts state agencies, departments, boards, or commissions from authorizing state-funded travel to a state that — after June 26, 2015 — has enacted a law authorizing, or repealing existing protections against, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Each applicable California agency is responsible for consulting the AB 1887 list created by the California Department of Justice to comply with the travel and funding restrictions imposed by the law.

There is a ban against travel to 17 other states, including Texas which had attempted to sue California at the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 7-2 decision, the high court rejected the case and declined to hear oral arguments.

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California

Newsom highlights $15 billion to tackle wildfire & drought challenges

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis while protecting the hardest-hit communities”

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

THREE RIVERS, Ca. – At the site of the KNP Complex in Sequoia National Park, Governor Gavin Newsom today highlighted the California Comeback Plan’s over $15 billion climate package – the largest such investment in state history – tackling a wide array of climate impacts facing the state.

The Governor today signed legislation outlining investments in the package to build wildfire and forest resilience, support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience and directly protect communities across the state from multi-faceted climate risks, including extreme heat and sea level rise.

“California is doubling down on our nation-leading policies to confront the climate crisis head-on while protecting the hardest-hit communities,” said Newsom. “We’re deploying a comprehensive approach to meet the sobering challenges of the extreme weather patterns that imperil our way of life and the Golden State as we know it, including the largest investment in state history to bolster wildfire resilience, funding to tackle the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience, and strategic investments across the spectrum to protect communities from extreme heat, sea level rise and other climate risks that endanger the most vulnerable among us.”

When the Governor signed the state budget and related legislation in July, he and legislative leaders agreed to additional discussions during the summer to further refine steps to advance their shared and funded priorities, including natural resources investments. The legislation signed today details some of the most important investments funded in the over $15 billion climate package, which includes:

$1.5 Billion Wildfire and Forest Resilience Package 

The $1.5 billion package supporting a comprehensive forest and wildfire resilience strategy statewide is the largest such investment in California history. Building on a $536 million early action package in April ahead of peak fire season, an additional $988 million in 2021-22 will fund projects to reduce wildfire risk and improve the health of forests and wildlands. This includes investments for community hardening in fire-vulnerable areas, strategic fuel breaks and fuel reduction projects, approaches to restore landscapes and create resilient wildlands and a framework to expand the wood products market, supporting sustainable local economies.

This investment helps implement the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan published in January, and builds on previous budget investments for emergency management, including funding for additional fire crews and equipment, and executive actions to help combat catastrophic wildfires. Governor Newsom bolstered CAL FIRE’s firefighting ranks in March by authorizing the early hire of 1,399 additional firefighters and in July supplemented the department’s capacities with 12 additional aircraft. The Governor earlier this year launched an expanded and refocused Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force to deliver on key commitments in his Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action PlanLast year, the Newsom Administration and the U.S. Forest Service announced a shared stewardship agreement under which they are working to treat one million acres of forest and wildland annually to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

$5.2 Billion Water and Drought Resilience Package 

Climate change is making droughts more common and more severe. The California Comeback Plan invests $5.2 billion over three years to support immediate drought response and long-term water resilience, including funding for emergency drought relief projects to secure and expand water supplies; support for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities; Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security and quality; and projects to support wildlife and habitat restoration efforts, among other nature-based solutions. 

$3.7 Billion Climate Resilience Package 

Focusing on vulnerable front-line communities, the package includes $3.7 billion over three years to build resilience against the state’s multi-faceted climate risks, including extreme heat and sea level rise. Investments to address the impacts of extreme heat include urban greening projects, grants to support community resilience centers and projects that reduce the urban heat island effect, and funding to advance the Extreme Heat Framework as part of the state’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. The package also supports coastal protection and adaptation measures, efforts to protect and conserve California’s diverse ecosystems, and community-based investments to build resilience, such as grants to support environmental justice-focused initiatives and funding for the California Climate Action Corps, which supports local climate action projects in disadvantaged communities.

$1.1 Billion to Support Climate Smart Agriculture 

Amid climate-driven drought and extreme heat challenges, California is committing $1.1 billion over two years to support sustainable agriculture practices and create a resilient and equitable food system. These efforts include investments to promote healthy soil management, support for livestock methane reduction efforts, funding for the replacement of agricultural equipment to reduce emissions and technical assistance and incentives for the development of farm conservation management plans. The package also supports programs to expand healthy food access for seniors and in schools, other public institutions and non-profit organizations.

$3.9 Billion Zero-Emission Vehicle Package  

The California Comeback Plan supports California’s nation-leading climate agenda with a $3.9 billion investment to hit fast forward on the state’s Zero-Emission Vehicle goals and lead the transition to ZEVs on a global scale. The package includes funding to put 1,000 zero-emission drayage trucks, 1,000 zero-emission school buses and 1,000 transit buses, and the necessary infrastructure, on California roads – prioritizing projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. Helping drive consumer adoption, the package funds consumer rebates for new ZEV purchases and incentives for low-income Californians to replace their old car with a new or used advanced technology car. 

Additional Investments  

The package also includes $270 million to support a circular economy that advances sustainability and helps reduce short-lived climate pollutants from the waste sector, and $150 million that will support urban waterfront parks, with a focus on underserved communities. 

More information on the over $15 billion climate package can be found in the Department of Finance’s addendum to its enacted budget summary. Click here for the budget addendum.

Newsom today also signed a raft of new climate measures to protect communities and advance the state’s climate and clean energy efforts.

Legislation to boost drought and wildfire resilience includes SB 552 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) to ensure small and rural water suppliers develop drought and water shortage contingency plans and implement drought resiliency measures to prevent and prepare for future water shortages; SB 403 by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) to allow the State Water Resources Control Board to order consolidation of an at-risk water system or domestic well in a disadvantaged community; SB 109 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) to create the Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development at CAL FIRE to evaluate emerging firefighting technology; and AB 697 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), which enables the state to plan, manage and implement forest restoration projects on national forest lands through an expanded Good Neighbor Authority Program.  

The legislation signed today also includes SB 1 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), which establishes the California Sea Level Rise Mitigation and Adaptation Act to help coordinate and fund state efforts to prepare for sea level rise; AB 525 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), which directs state agencies to develop a strategic plan for offshore wind resources in California following the state’s historic agreement earlier this year with federal partners; SB 47 by Senator Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara), which increases the amount of money the state can collect annually to plug abandoned wells, utilizing funds from fees on the oil and gas industry; and AB 39 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Arcadia), which enables the University of California to establish the California-China Climate Institute to advance joint policy research and foster high-level dialogue in order to accelerate climate action. 

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