In a 10 to 1 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation to allocate $301,600 from the city’s general fund toward educating San Francisco residents about the HIV-prevention pill Truvada.
Now “health navigators,” who will be commissioned by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, will help patients access the drug — whether they have private insurance, Medi-Cal or patient assistance programs through the drug’s manufacturer.
Supervisor David Campos, co-author of the legislation, asked for his colleagues’ support, adding, “San Francisco is already a sanctuary city, so let’s please make it a sanctuary city from HIV.” HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
With the passage of the legislation, the San Francisco Supervisors have initiated their plan to help eliminate new cases of HIV in the city by making the health navigators more culturally competent as well.
Truvada is an antiviral medication that is taken once-daily in order to prevent new HIV infections in those at highest risk of contracting the disease. The preventive treatment plan is known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP.
What’s missing from this version of the measure is co-pay assistance for patients who cannot afford the drug. When Campos introduced the legislation in September, the appropriation was for $801,600. After going through the Budget and Finance Committee, it was reduced to $301,600.
The most important piece of the budget has always been the health navigators, Campos said. In the future, he said, the board of supervisors can still devise a co-pay assistance plan for the drug.
“This is the first step,” said Laura Lane, legislative assistant to Campos. Once the 2015-2016 fiscal year arrives, the other portion of the legislation may be reintroduced. “We don’t want to start something that we may not be able to continue in the future.”
The only dissenting vote came from Supervisor Katy Tang. While she applauded the $500,000, reduction she still voted no. However, she did express support for preventive HIV measures– but did not support the current legislation saying, “I really do feel that this is something we can absolutely address during the regular budget process.”
“PrEP is really one part of the ‘getting to zero’ initiative…and I think that it’s really important for us to look at the broader picture as to how it is that we address these issues in our outreach efforts,” Tang said.