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Locals react to federal court ruling about access to preventative medication

Posted at 8:48 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 21:48:10-04

BRYAN, Texas — As U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor handed down his decision this week, allowing employers to decline health care coverage of HIV-preventative care, KRHD looked at how this decision could affect Brazos Valley residents who are at risk of contracting the virus.

The federal precedent that’s been set by Wednesday’s ruling determines that employers may deny their employees coverage for HIV PrEP on the basis of religious freedom. As reported in the Texas Tribune:

"...The other plaintiffs, including John Kelley, a Tarrant County orthodontist, claim they “do not need or want contraceptive coverage in their health insurance. They do not want or need free sexually-transmitted disease testing covered by their health insurance because they are in monogamous relationships with their respective spouses, and they do not want or need health insurance that covers Truvada or PrEP drugs because neither they nor any of their family members are engaged in behavior that transmits HIV..."

While the demographics of HIV patients are changing across the years, the Centers for Disease Control reports that communities of color and gay and bisexual men are still disproportionately at risk of contracting HIV.

“It’s like birth control, and there’s the attitude of if you’re using PrEP, then maybe that makes you more promiscuous," said Rick Burgess, treasurer of the Pride Community Center – Brazos Valley chapter. "But really it just adds a layer of protection for the users, for everybody involved.”

Burgess takes HIV PrEP medication daily, as recommended by his doctor. Even in 2022, her HIV is still a reality.

“I know a mixture of gay and straight men and women that have HIV, who have contracted it in various ways," Burgess said. "Each individual has their own circumstances of how they’re exposed to HIV.”

The Brazos Valley Health Department connects at-risk communities with HIV PrEP medications. If a person is uninsured, they assist with signing that individual up for health insurance. But if that patient is already insured through an employer who is against HIV PrEP -

“We can only help people who are currently uninsured," said Mary Parrish, spokesperson for the Brazos County Health District. "So they would have to drop their employer’s plan and be off of it for a while before we can get them signed up.”

Parrish encourages anyone who may be considered at-risk to reach out to the health district in order for assistance in acquiring prep medication.