On Jan. 16, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation that would require California to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to end the epidemics of HIV, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases. This would be the first statewide strategy developed in the United States to tackle all three epidemics collectively.
Senate Bill 859 – cosponsored by APLA Health, San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Essential Access Health – would require the California Health and Human Services Agency, in coordination with the Office of AIDS and other state departments, to create a statewide master plan to significantly reduce new cases of HIV, HCV and STDs. This bill would also require the state to establish a Stakeholder Advisory Committee, including community-based organizations and individuals impacted by these conditions, to help inform the development of the plan.
“STD rates in California have reached record highs, and HIV and hepatitis C continue to impact the state’s most vulnerable and underserved communities,” said Craig E. Thompson, CEO of APLA Health. “We applaud Sen. Wiener for leading this bold effort to bring together state agencies and community members to develop an aggressive strategy to end these epidemics. Now we need the full support of the governor and the legislature. The longer they wait, the more it will cost California to treat new infections that could – and should – have been prevented in the first place.”
According to the Department of Public Health, California’s STD rates continue to climb and are at the highest levels in 30 years. STD cases are increasing across all regions of the state with the highest rates among gay men, young people and African Americans. The state’s HCV epidemic is also growing rapidly, with rates of newly reported chronic HCV increasing 50% among young people from 2011-15. New HIV diagnoses declined just 2% from 2013-17, and communities of color, particularly young gay men and transgender women, remain hardest hit by the epidemic.
“We have the tools to end new infections of HIV and STDs. What we’re missing is political will,” Wiener said on the release of the legislation. “This bill, SB 859, would require California to make a plan to end this epidemic, and help state agencies access the necessary resources to do so. I’m proud to be introducing another piece of legislation fighting for the LGBT community, which, alongside other marginalized communities, is disproportionately impacted by HIV and other STDs. California must be a leader on these issues, and right now we’re at risk of falling behind. SB 859 would be a big step towards finally ending the epidemic.”
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