By Indigo Quashie
SPRINGFIELD – Late in the evening on Thursday, March 3, 2022, AIDS Foundation Chicago staff, as leaders of a broad community coalition, celebrated legislation crossing the first lawmaking hurdle to making HIV prevention medications more accessible through local pharmacies. The bill, HB4430: Increased Access to PrEP & PEP Through Community Pharmacies, successfully moved through the Illinois House with a bipartisan vote of 71-24. Championed by State Representative Kelly M. Cassidy, HB4430 seeks to open additional avenues for HIV prevention efforts, allowing individuals to initiate care within their communities. Those most vulnerable to HIV, especially Black and Latinx individuals, are faced with a myriad of barriers when accessing preventative health care. These communities are disproportionately affected by HIV due to medical mistrust, stigma, systemic racism, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and lack of healthcare access and affordability. To combat these issues, HB4430 calls for the following reforms:
Allow pharmacists to dispense and administer PrEP & PEP under a standing order, to those who are at risk or who may have been exposed to HIV, without an initial visit to a doctor. Allowing pharmacists to initiate PrEP and PEP offers individuals more easily accessible preventative care in a non-stigmatizing, more approachable environment.
Aids pharmacists in referring individuals to ongoing preventative care and gives them the ability to connect patients to laboratories for additional tests to determine if PrEP is the most appropriate course of care. Pharmacists continue to facilitate connections to ongoing medical care and social support services.
Nationally, for every 25 PrEP prescriptions written by a doctor, 16 are for white individuals, whereas only a little over three are for Latino individuals and just two of every 25 are written for Black individuals. Historic and persistent disparities exist in who receives a PrEP prescription, with only about 31% of Illinoisians who would benefit from the prevention medication getting a prescription from a doctor. This percentage must increase significantly if we are to truly end the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030. One of AIDS Foundation Chicago’s efforts to address these racial health disparities and make concrete gains towards Getting to Zero is moving HB4430, and other legislation in the policy portfolio, forward in the legislative process. The bill’s bipartisan progress through the House is a massive step in the right direction. Timothy S. Jackson, Director of Government Relations for AIDS Foundation Chicago, has worked closely on HB4430 and emphasizes just how big an impact it would have on these historically under-resourced and under-represented communities.
“We need to operate differently to reach communities that have too often been left out and left behind. We know HB4430 is the bold action we need to bridge these gaps in accessing PrEP and PEP. In expanding access, we are expanding equity and continuing to take steps towards our goal of Getting to Zero in Illinois by 2030."
If you would like to personally advocate to your officials for HB4430 and our other legislative priorities, join us this Wednesday, March 9th for Illinois’ HIV Advocacy Day! Participate in a day full of action and collaboration by registering here or texting “GTZIL” to 40649.