Consent bill pitched to prevent sexually transmitted diseases

State House News Service
Published: 6/27/2017 10:43:08 PM

Young adults would be able to consent without a parent’s permission to receive preventative treatment for HIV infection or vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases, under a proposal that lawmakers say would remove barriers to care and reduce the spread of infection.

Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Jack Lewis, two newcomers to the Legislature this year, filed bills that would expand the minor consent law for HIV prevention. The bills would also create a commission to study out-of-network insurance coverage for screening, treatment and preventative services for sexually transmitted diseases and update laws to streamline access to HIV testing and care.

“To think that someone may not receive preventative treatment and care due to paperwork is absurd,” said Cyr, a Truro Democrat who has worked as an HIV test counselor and for the state Department of Public Health.

The bills had a hearing Tuesday before the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Cyr said that there are 50,000 new HIV infections in the United States every year, 20 percent of which are found among teenagers under 18. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 62,000 young adults are living with HIV.

“These numbers are staggering, and what’s worse they’re preventable,” Cyr said.

Current law allows minors to consent to care without permission from a parent for treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, but not for pre- or post-exposure treatments for HIV or for the human papillomavirus vaccine.

“Parental consent can be a barrier to reaching youth for preventative sexual health care,” said Northeastern University law professor Jason Potter.

Lewis said there was a disconnect in the fact that teenagers could seek a diagnosis or treatment for HIV without a parent’s consent, but could not access preventative services in the same manner. “We are now at the precipice of being able to prevent all new HIV cases within this decade, something people once thought was science fiction,” he said.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, according to the CDC, is a preventative treatment method for people who are HIV negative, but at a high risk of contracting the virus. By taking a pill every day, the CDC says, PREP has reduced the risk of HIV infection in high-risk populations by up to 92 percent.

Both Cyr and Lewis said their bills would improve access to life-saving treatments and services for youth who may come from families where they are not comfortable talking with parents about their lifestyle and may avoid treatment because of that.

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