Monday Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that aims to help the state “get to zero” by increasing awareness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) as HIV prevention options.
“By signing AB 2640,” said Dr. Robert Bolan, Medical Director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “Governor Brown is helping to promote options that have the potential to change the course of the epidemic in California and significantly reduce the HIV infection rate here.”
The first statewide legislation of its kind, it was cosponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health — the offshoot of AIDS Project Los Angeles (now APLA) aimed at achieving “health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV.”
“We are extremely pleased that Governor Brown has signed this bill into law,” APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson said in a press release. “This is one of several proposals the governor has supported to increase information about and the availability of PrEP and PEP, and we thank him for his continued leadership on this issue. AB 2640 is a crucial step toward raising awareness about effective HIV prevention tools, reducing new infections, and ending the epidemic in California.”
Introduced by Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson), the law will ensure that high-risk individuals who have tested negative receive the information they need to stay that way, including about PrEP and PEP, during HIV post-test counseling.
PrEP, the HIV-prevention protocol has been shown to be around 99 percent effective at preventing HIV transmission when used correctly. Meanwhile, PEP involves taking anti-HIV medications within 72 hours after a potential exposure to HIV. According to recent report produced in collaboration between APLA and the California HIV/AIDS Research Program of gay and bisexual men, only 1 in 10 gay and bi respondents had ever used PrEP and nearly 85 percent had never spoken to their doctor about whether PrEP was right for them.
As Plus reported earlier this month, there’s also a significant disparity in those who have access to the prevention treatment. Only 9.6 percent of California Latinos surveyed said they used PrEP, despite 55.9 percent claiming they were interested in doing so.
“With the stroke of his pen, Governor Brown has played a significant and groundbreaking role in helping to fight HIV in the state that ranks second in the nation in cumulative AIDS cases,” Bolan. “Those most at risk of HIV infection deserve to know about all the options to stay negative, including PrEP and PEP.
The West Hollywood City Council recently voted to require that city’s HIV testing be accompanied with information about PrEP during pre- and/or post-test counseling. Until now, there had been no statewide requirement to provide information about any HIV prevention methods, including PrEP and PEP, during HIV test counseling.
“It is estimated that 1 in 2 Black gay men and 1 in 4 Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if infection rates continue to rise: this is unconscionable,” Gipson told the press. “Women of color and transgender individuals are also among the groups at greatest risk for HIV. We now have effective tools like PrEP and PEP that can help end the HIV epidemic, but that won’t happen unless people know about them. With the signing of AB 2640, we are now doing more to make sure that people know about the tools available to protect themselves.”