Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Local options for HIV prevention

Did you know that a privately-funded charity worker who is trying to save lives can be arrested and incarcerated in Texas if their program includes exchanging clean syringes for dirty ones that might carry HIV or Hep C? 73-year old Chaplain Bill Day currently faces a year behind bars for his volunteer work in a program funded in part by his church.

Did you know that a county government or hospital district employee can be sent to jail in Texas if they carry out an HIV prevention program that has been proven to save lives and tax dollars, and is currently legal in every state except Texas?

Today our local governments and private charities have no options due to a state mandate that criminalizes the exchange of clean syringes for dirty ones.

Local options would be allowed by the HIV prevention bills authored by Senators Deuell, Van de Putte, Wentworth, West, Zaffirini and Hinojosa; and Representatives McClendon, Crabb, Ortiz, McCall, Rodriguez, Coleman, Naishtat, and Farrar. The bills would allow each local government in Texas to choose whether or not to allow these disease prevention programs in the local area, and to choose whether or not to use tax funds to pay for the programs. Several national charities would like to fund the programs privately without any tax dollars - but right now state law says "no."

When the United States government funds HIV prevention through syringe access, which President Obama has promised that it will do ... wouldn't it be tragic if Texas medical providers and charities were threatened with criminal prosecution by state government if they choose to utilize the funds to save lives?

Chairwoman Kolkhorst, Chair of the Texas House Public Health Committee (pictured above), will decide tomorrow whether or not to set these local options bills for a hearing next week.

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