Newsom Signs Controversial HIV Prevention Bill

( – California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new state bill into law that would authorize the distribution of HIV medication for prevention purposes without a prescription. S.B. 159 was sponsored by the infamous Democrat Sen. Scott Wiener. Wiener has been California’s most controversial state senator, frequently introducing legislation that ends up in the national spotlight.

Wiener said that new cases of HIV in the state were roughly 4,000 per year and that most of those infected were minorities. He suggested the rule-change would “unlock a new tool” for preventing the illness while suggesting too many Californians lacked access. He suggested making the medication available without a prescription at the pharmacy would help cut down on new cases.

PrEP is an acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis and describes the process of taking a low-dose HIV medication which would prevent the virus from being able to infect and reproduce when individuals are exposed to it during unprotected sexual activity or IV-drug use. Clinical research has indicated that taking Truvada, a common HIV medication, at low doses once a day is 99% effective in preventing infection with the virus.

Advocates claim that many people don’t take PrEP because it’s difficult to access a doctor to get the prescription while they allege some doctors won’t even prescribe the drug due to anti-gay bias.

Critics contend that overprescribing the drug may have unforeseen consequences like the virus mutating and becoming tolerant to the drug or individuals avoiding necessary interactions with a medical professional. Initially there was opposition from the California Medical Association who argued a prescription should be required. They changed their opposition to neutral when the law was altered to prohibit insurance covering it for more than 60 days without a prescription.

The bill would also require health care providers and insurance companies to cover the cost of the medication, as well as bloodwork or other testing required before the drug can be safely given to users.

The bill is expected to go into effect sometime in the fall, with the California State Board of Pharmacy having to incorporate the rule changes by the end of October.

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