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Act TODAY to help people with HIV get health care in Massachusetts

Monday, May 18, 2015

Call your MA Senator today and ask them to support Budget Amendment 846We urgently need calls today to pass a crucial budget amendment that will enable people with HIV in Massachusetts to get health care.

Senator Mark Montigny has offered an Amendment to the Senate Budget that would ensure treatment for HIV-associated lipodystrophy, a debilitating side-effect of some HIV medications that causes disfiguring body shape changes. Treatment is currently denied by the insurance industry.

Please call your State Senator today and ask him or her to support Budget Amendment 846 sponsored by Senator Montigny that would help people with HIV-associated lipodystrophy get medical treatment.

The Senate will begin debate on budget amendments today or tomorrow.

You can find and contact your Senator at malegislature.gov or contact the General Switchboard at 722-2000.

People with lipodystrophy suffer terrible physical pain; many experience such disfiguration that they stop leaving their homes; some have contemplated or committed suicide.

The good news is that there are simple, cost-effective treatments for lipodystrophy.

But health insurers in Massachusetts regularly deny coverage for these life-saving treatments because they say they are "cosmetic."

Lipodystrophy harms our longest-term survivors of the HIV epidemic.

Thank you for helping ensure sound and compassionate health care for people with HIV.

Learn more about this issue at www.glad.org/TLC

Testimony in Opposition to An Act Related to Criminal Offenses - Criminal Transmission of HIV

GLAD AIDS Law Project Director and Senior Staff Attorney Ben Klein testified February 24 in opposition to Rhode Island H 5245, An Act Related to Criminal Offenses - Criminal Transmission of HIV, saying such a law, if enacted, would "undermine public health efforts to prevent HIV and will actually increase HIV transmission."

You can read Klein's full testimony here.  

An excerpt follows:

"GLAD opposes H 5245, a law that criminalizes failure to disclose HIV status, because leading medical and public health authorities agree that such a law will undermine public health efforts to prevent HIV and will actually increase HIV transmission.

We all share the goal of stopping HIV transmission. Rhode Island has been a leader in adopting successful tools to curtail the spread of HIV. Those measures include increasing HIV testing, ensuring access to HIV antiviral medications that drastically reduce the likelihood of transmission, adopting laws providing for access to clean syringes, and operating an effective partner notification program. H 5245, however, will not only fail to have any impact on HIV transmission, it will actually increase HIV transmission by undermining these proven public health measures.  

For this reason, there is a consensus among the nation’s leading medical and public health organizations that HIV criminalization laws, such as H 5245, are harmful to the public health."

Read more

A Message from Ben Klein on An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment

A message from Ben Klein, GLAD AIDS Law Project Director:

The formal session of the Massachusetts legislature ended at midnight on July 31 and, unfortunately, the lipodystrophy treatment legislation did not pass this session. I know that this is disappointing for all of us.

All of us here at GLAD and all who are members of the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition remain committed to seeing that treatment becomes available for those who are experiencing the negative impact of lipodystrophy.  It is very challenging to get a bill passed the first time around. We advanced very far into the legislative process and moved a lot of legislators who were deeply touched by the stories of people with lipodystrophy.

We have no intention of giving up on this issue. In addition to continuing our efforts on this legislation, we are already strategizing about non-legislative work we can undertake towards the goal of accessing treatment for people.

There are so many people to thank and I will not try to do that in any complete way now.

But I do want to give special thanks to the people living with lipodystrophy whose courage and willingness to share their stories publicly made all the difference, and, among them, a big shout out to our TLC Co-chairs Andrew Fullem and George Beth Hastie.

In addition, we have had outstanding and committed legislative sponsors, initially Carl Sciortino, and then Sarah Peake, who picked up leadership after Carl left. They and their aides worked tirelessly in this effort.

Finally, I also want to thank Arline Isaacson, one of the most respected and effective lobbyists in Massachusetts. Arline committed to this bill right at the beginning and her expertise and hard work got us much farther down the road than most bills get in their first try.

I am so appreciative of the work of all of you who testified, shared your stories, wrote letters, called or emailed legislators, and provided support in so many ways.

I know that we will all keep working to ensure that people with HIV get necessary health care.

Take Two Minutes Today to Help People with HIV Get Health care in MA

We're down to the wire in our effort to pass a crucial piece of legislation that will help people with HIV get health care.

We need your help to ensure An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment is brought to a vote this session.
Please contact your representative today.

Lipodystrophy is a debilitating side-effect of some HIV medications that causes disfiguring body shape changes. People with lipodystrophy suffer terrible physical pain; many experience such disfiguration that they stop leaving their homes; some have contemplated or committed suicide.

The good news is that there are simple, cost-effective treatments for lipodystrophy.

But health insurers in Massachusetts regularly deny coverage for these life-saving treatments because they say they are "cosmetic."

An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Peake, requires private health insurers and MassHealth to cover treatments such as liposuction and dermal injections.

Please contact your representative today and request that they ask House Leadership to bring H4141 An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment to a vote this session.

You can find and email your representative here or contact the General Switchboard at 617-722-2000.

Thank you for helping ensure sound and compassionate health care for people with HIV.

Learn more about this bill, about lipodystrophy, and about the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition.

Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition

Massachusetts

In the Boston GlobePatients, advocates hope to ease a visible burden - Treatment for lipodystrophy, visible fat deposits caused by a reaction to HIV medication, often isn’t covered by insurance.

“A Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Treatment of a Debilitating and Disfiguring Side Effect of HIV Medications,” sponsored by Rep. Carl Sciortino,has a hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services on March 5, 2014. Read more

About this Issue

GLAD and the Treat Lipodystrophy Coalition are working with Massachusetts Rep. Carl Sciortino to pass An Act Relative to HIV-Associated Lipodystrophy Treatment.

This bill requires private insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission to provide medical treatment for lipodystrophy, a disfiguring side-effect of lifesaving, but highly toxic, HIV medications.

HIV antiviral medications, known as “triple combination therapy” or “the cocktail,” revolutionized AIDS care in the 1990’s, extending the lives of people with HIV. These medications also can result in lipodystrophy, the abnormal distribution of body fat. The condition creates “visible disfiguring and stigmatizing morphological changes” in body shape and appearance, causing profound physical and psychological harm to people with HIV.

While there are inexpensive, effective medical treatments for lipodystrophy, insurers routinely deny claims for treatment on the basis that they are cosmetic and not medically necessary.

For more information, read the fact sheet and visit the TLC page at www.glad.org/tlc

Advocating for Insurance Coverage of the HPV Vaccine for Boys

GLAD is working to make sure young LGBTQ people live in a world in which they can safely be who they are and be healthy. That means a world free of bullying and harassment, where they can express themselves and form GSAs in schools. And it means a world in which LGBTQ young people have access to health care that meets their needs.

That’s why GLAD recently urged two insurers to cover the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine for boys. The FDA has approved the vaccine for girls 9-26 to protect against cervical cancer and boys of the same age to protect against anal cancer. Young gay men could receive life-saving benefits by receiving the vaccine.

But Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), our state’s largest insurer, covers the vaccine for girls only, not for boys. All three of the other major Massachusetts insurers are now covering this vaccine that prevents a serious disease, anal cancer, for which gay men and people with HIV are at higher risk.

BCBS’ position puts young gay men at unnecessary risk.

If BCBS is your insurer, please take a moment to call them and tell them they should join their competitors in being responsive to the healthcare needs of young gay men.

GLAD Testimony on Proposed Maine HIV-related Legislation

GLAD submitted testimony April 7, 2011 on two bills before the Main legislature concerning proposed changes to HIV-related law concerning privacy and mother-to-child transmission.

Excerpt from testimony on LD 596

GLAD opposes LD 596 which would eliminate all medical privacy protections in Maine law for HIV status (5 MRSA § 19203-D, ¶¶ A-B). The eradication of specific prohibitions on the disclosure of a patient’s HIV status without the patient’s specific consent will harm individuals and undermine critical public health goals to increase testing and ensure that individuals with HIV seek medical treatment. As the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States concluded in July 2010: “The stigma associated with HIV remains extremely high and fear of discrimination causes some Americans to avoid learning their HIV status, disclosing their HIV status, or accessing medical care.” Read the full testimony

Excerpt from testimony on LD 702

GLAD shares the goal of implementing the best public health strategies to eliminate Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV. As explained below, the gold standard public health strategy to reduce MTCT is to ensure that every pregnant woman is offered an HIV test and, if positive, receives medication that will protect her health and reduce the risk of MTCT to less than two percent. For this reason, GLAD supports the provision in this bill requiring physicians to offer HIV testing to all pregnant women. GLAD believes, however, that this provision does not go far enough and must include a requirement that physicians explain to pregnant women the benefits of HIV testing during pregnancy. Read the full testimony

AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein Testifies On MA HIV Testing Bill

GLAD’s AIDS Law Project Director Ben Klein today presented testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health in support of S 1108 and H 2906, which would streamline HIV testing while safeguarding patients’ essential legal rights.

GLAD enthusiastically supports S 1108 and H 2906. These bills implement important public health policies that will facilitate the goal of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand HIV testing and link people who test positive to medical care. In addition, although eliminating the requirement of written informed consent for HIV testing, these bills maintain a meaningful process for ensuring that HIV testing remains voluntary and ensuring that patients maintain control over the decision to be tested. Read the complete testimony