Legislature Passes Bill to Allow Minors Access to HIV Prevention Medication

The Massachusetts Legislature on Sunday passed legislation which would allow individuals under the age of 18 to access life-saving HIV prevention medication, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

“Access to healthcare has the potential to save lives, and that is particularly true when it comes to preventive health care,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill will protect Massachusetts residents by slowing the spread of HIV and ensuring equitable access to healthcare, especially for LGBTQIA+ youth. I would like to thank my legislative partner, Speaker Mariano, for his collaboration, and Senator Cyr and Representative Lewis for their attention to this issue.”

“I’m proud of the strong support in the House and Senate for this amendment, as ensuring increased access to vital HIV prevention medication will save lives,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I want to thank Representative Jack Patrick Lewis and all my colleagues in the House, as well as Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate, for our shared vision of a Commonwealth with no new HIV diagnoses, no AIDS-related deaths, and no stigma around HIV/AIDS.”

“We are positioned to effectively end new HIV infections in Massachusetts if we continue to expand access to PrEP, a life-saving medication that prevents HIV transmission,” said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “It is imperative that we support the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s LGBTQ youth, yet for young people who face homophobia at home, asking for consent to receive a prescription for PrEP can present an insurmountable barrier. With this legislation, Massachusetts joins a number of other states from California to New York that ensure young people can access this critical tool in HIV prevention care.”

“This amendment to the budget ensures greater access to life-saving and life-enhancing HIV-prevention medication for our Commonwealth’s young people, bringing us closer to zero new cases and zero stigma around HIV,” said Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (D- Framingham). “In my previous role as the executive director of OUT MetroWest, I first learned of the barriers to HIV-prevention services for our Commonwealth’s young adults. While our organization could assist youth in securing HIV testing and treatment, laws at the time prevented their access to HIV-prevention services. With this language, that ten-year effort came to a successful end.  I will forever be grateful to House and Senate Leadership for their support of this language, my co-filers Rep Chynah Tyler and Senator Julian Cyr, and the many organizations who have advocated for this expansion of services.”

This bill, included as an amendment to the state’s budget for fiscal year 2023, will support the Commonwealth’s efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV, which continues to disproportionately affect members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and low-income individuals.

Current statute permits minors to consent to HIV treatment but does not allow them to consent to HIV prevention services such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). This bill adds HIV prevention services to the list of healthcare services to which minors may consent without parental permission, removing a significant barrier to critical care. In addition, this bill allows public health clinics that provide treatment for venereal diseases to also provide preventive care for HIV.

According to the CDC, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use by about 99 per cent when taken as prescribed and does not have serious side effects. Despite the availability of this highly effective HIV prevention medication, the CDC reports that only around 25 per cent of the individuals who are recommended to take PrEP currently do so.

Having been passed in both branches, the provision, which the Governor had returned with an amendment, is now returned to the Governor for consideration.