Insurance should not cover drugs to prevent HIV, says Texas judge
Federal Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that companies should not be required to cover, through medical insurance, the acquisition of medicines that prevent HIV, as this violates the religious freedom of employers.
On September 7th, the O’Connor court, based in Texas, ruled in favor of a company that challenged the obligation imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, to reimburse its workers for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) treatments.
In addition, this verdict would be affecting the coverage of contraception, the HPV vaccine (which causes cervical cancer) and medical check-ups related to the consumption of illicit drugs, as well as sexually transmitted infections.
Clash of beliefs
PrEP is a treatment scheme that consists in antiretroviral drugs, and preventing the transmission of HIV to people who do not have the infection. This is why its use is recommended for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and who engage in practices considered risky, such as sex without a condom or commercial sex work.
The lawsuit was brought by the Braidwood Company, which is owned by Christians. The plaintiffs’ attorney is Jonathan Mitchell, a Republican militant who was previously the attorney general of Texas and from there was known for his efforts to restrict access to abortion in the state. The lawyer affirms that these actions violate the federal religious freedom act (RFRA, for its acronym in English).
For his part, Judge O’Connor argued that the fact that Obamacare requires employers to cover, through health insurance, HIV preventive medications and medical check-ups for people who inject drugs is a way of “making them complicit in facilitating homosexual behavior and (illegal) drug use.”
The next moves
The process is still open and Judge O’Connor has summoned both parties to provide new documentation. According to some media, so far it has not been clear what impact this ruling could have, in addition to PrEP coverage, in other areas of health.
It should be remembered that both attorney Mitchell and many other practitioners, politicians and institutions have cited the RFRA law to defend their beliefs about abortion, contraceptive methods and hormonal treatments that are provided to transsexual people, among other issues that have to do with sexual freedoms.
For her part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, issued a statement on the subject, where she recognized PrEP as “a drug that has been shown to save lives from HIV/AIDS and a key strategy to end HIV/AIDS.” pandemic”.
Likewise, he pointed out that the decision has a significant load of homophobia and warned that it threatens preventive health services that are vital and that are guaranteed in the ACA law, such as contraceptive methods, vaccines and some routine check-ups.
He lamented that Judge O’Connor’s decision comes only a few months after the US Supreme Court, dominated by the Republican Party, opened the door for states to ban access to abortion. This, Pelosi said, is part of a campaign to punish “our most personal decisions, from abortion to contraception and beyond.”
Health is your right
Remember that the right to health is a human right that all governments should guarantee. At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean, access to specialized HIV services and preventive measures have been the goal of our work for years.
If you need to take a free HIV test or want to get free condoms, come to our available centers in your country or write to us on Whatsapp and make your appointment today.