Bills make PrEP and PEP more accessible, battle disparities in care for African Americans
Chicago—Governor JB Pritzker signed HB4430 and HB5549 into law today, removing barriers to access for HIV and AIDS care and prevention. HB4430 allows pharmacists to dispense both pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis drugs (PrEP and PEP) without a prior referral from a doctor. HB5549 ensures funding from the African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund will support research centers and resources hubs led by representative members of the community.
“If we want to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our state by 2030, then we have to make preventative care like PrEP and PEP accessible to all Illinoisans,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These medications are incredibly effective at preventing infection and transmission, and they are essential to our mission of Getting to Zero. My administration knows that these efforts must be equity-centered and proactive to have the biggest impact. That’s why we are investing in Black communities that are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. I am proud to sign these bills that bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal: zero new HIV transmissions.”
PrEP and PEP reduce the risk of HIV transmission by preventing the HIV virus from replicating in the human body. When taken correctly, PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of contracting HIV by up to 99%. Both drugs require consistent use, with PEP at it’s most effective when taken as soon as possible after exposure to the virus. The CDC currently estimates that less than 20% of those eligible for or possibly benefitting from PrEP take the medication.
Inability to access medical care due to financial hardship, cultural stigma, disability, or many other reasons can delay or interrupt the use of these drugs, rendering them less effective or preventing those at risk from adopting use at all. Providing administration and dispersal options from pharmacists makes prophylactic drugs more accessible and can protect countless Illinoisans from HIV/AIDS.
The law also specifies that when these services are provided by a pharmacist, the care must be covered and reimbursed by insurance at the same rate as when provided by a physician. Pharmacists will also receive support and training under the bill to refer patients to other care and support services and for additional testing.
HB5549 provides that the African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund creates and maintains at least one Black-led Center of Excellence HIV Biomedical Resource Hub for every $3,000,000 of available funding. According to the CDC, 46% of people living with HIV/AIDS in Illinois are Black or African American, a disproportionally high rate. However, only 8% of PrEP prescriptions written nationally each year are for Black or African American individuals. The Fund, originally established in 2006, is designed to target HIV/AIDS transmission reduction services among African Americans.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is a member of Getting to Zero Illinois, an initiative to end the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030. Two major tenants of the Getting to Zero plan are addressed by the legislation Governor Pritzker signed today. A central goal of the plan is to increase access and adoption of antivirals like PrEP, which will be far easier with these drugs available through pharmacists. The project also focuses on addressing racial disparities in healthcare to ensure the most at-risk are targeted for prevention and treatment.
“Access to quality healthcare, medicine, and services is a right and not a privilege. We must fight against disparities that disproportionately impact the health of Black and Brown people in this country,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “By signing legislation that sustains the African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund and makes PrEP and PEP more accessible, Illinois is widening the path for equitable care and community based support while fulfilling the promise of creating policy and allocating resources as we move towards our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois.”
“Removing a systemic barrier to these lifesaving medications will put us on a trajectory to end the HIV epidemic as we know it,” State Senator Mike Simmons said. “People who do not have access to a doctor or may not trust the health care system will have an easier source to access these critical medications, preventing many new HIV infections.”
“Historically, Black people living with HIV or AIDS have not received the care and resources they deserve. Amending the historic African American HIV AIDS Response Act to extend it another 25 years and to fund Black-led health hubs are significant steps in the right direction,” said State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson (D-Chicago), the lead House sponsor for House Bill 5549. “By establishing more Black-led HIV resource hubs, we’re guaranteeing Black Illinoisans have the health resources they need, while also working to reduce the disparities in HIV treatment between Black and non-Black residents.”
“This law will save lives. Inequitable access, particularly in Black and Brown communities, is a major impediment to our goal of getting to zero new cases of HIV in Illinois,” said State Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy (D-Chicago). “Allowing pharmacy access to PEP and PrEP helps address barriers facing these and other marginalized communities, including shame and stigma, and insufficient access to doctors. This law has the potential to help reduce new HIV cases by 90 percent by 2030.”
“In 2005, I led the creation of the African American HIV/AIDS Responsive Act in response to the specific impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Illinois disenfranchised communities, and now this law builds upon that act,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “Creating a Center of Excellence Biomedical Resource Hub for HIV/AIDS preventative care including supportive services is key in treating HIV-infected residents and preventing the continuous spread of this disease, which will help slow down the epidemic.”
“Increasing access to PrEP and PEP and retaining more people living with HIV in care are foundational principles of the Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) plan,” said Timothy S. Jackson, Director of Government Relations for AIDS Foundation Chicago. “However, it’s simply not enough to provide treatment to people living with HIV or provide access to PrEP and PEP to the most vulnerable communities. Our response to the epidemic should be rooted in how we address many of the key drivers of HIV in Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities across Illinois including the impact of HIV-related stigma and the dismantling of systemic racism. HB4430 and HB5549 are critical pieces of legislation that inch us one step closer to meeting the state’s goal of zero new HIV transmissions by 2030. We thank Governor Pritzker, the Illinois General Assembly, community partners, and advocates for working together to make this moment possible.”
“LGBTQ+ people and communities of color in Illinois should be able to access critical health care without experiencing barriers, harassment, and discrimination,” said Michael Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois. “HB 4430 and HB 5549 are essential measures to help dismantle the structural barriers to care and treatment for LGBTQ+ people and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by HIV. These initiatives will help Illinois get to zero new HIV infections by 2030. We applaud Governor Pritzker, Leader Lightford, Sen. Simmons, Rep. Cassidy, and Rep. Robinson for their leadership and thank the advocates for their commitment to increasing access to critical health care in Illinois.”
“As a healthcare provider for thousands of patients vulnerable to HIV, we at Howard Brown know that there are still too many barriers preventing patients from acessing PrEP,” said David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health. “The signing of HB4430 is a critical step forward in expanding access to PrEP, especially among the communities that are most disproportionately burdened by HIV. Making HIV preventative services like PrEP more widely available is key in our collective fight to end the HIV epidemic.”
“The pandemic has demonstrated the essential need for pharmacists’ services in our communities and the quality of care that we provide. HB4430 enables pharmacists to broaden our engagement of care and expand access to PrEP and PEP for our patients. Pharmacists are ready to do our part Getting to Zero in Illinois,” said Garth Reynolds, Executive Director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association.
“The Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Act is the ONLY one of its kind in the entire United States. Despite the disproportionate rates at which AIDS affects the Black community, Illinois is the only state that has an Act to allocate funding specifically for African American led CBOs which provide the optimal cultural competency in programs and services,” said Creola A. Kizart-Hampton, President of the Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity in Illinois and President/Founder, GREATERWORKS! INC. “Ensuring funding for full-service HIV/AIDS prevention and health centers across the state is a crucial move toward racial equity of healthcare– which is the only way the state and nation can ‘get to zero.’ We are grateful for collective efforts of multiple Black-led CBOs from across the state that have provided dedicated services through the AAHARA including South Side Help Center, Community Wellness Center, Writers Planners & Trainers, and others. We also thank the leadership of Reps. Lamont Robinson and Lashawn Ford, as well as Senators Kimberly Lightford, Mike Simmons, Jacqueline Collins and others for championing this legislation. “