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Craig Bowers
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3.16.22

APLA Health Joins Coalition to Urge Governor and Legislature to Allocate $105 Million to Tackle the HIV, STI, Viral Hepatitis and Overdose Epidemics

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, to Champion Budget Request in Legislature

March 16, 2022 – Today, APLA Health joined End the Epidemics, a statewide coalition of more than 150 community organizations, in urging Governor Newsom and the California Legislature to allocate $105 million in the state budget to address alarming increases in overdose deaths, skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and ongoing high transmission rates of HIV and viral hepatitis. Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, will champion the budget request in the Legislature.

“With a historic budget surplus, the Governor and Legislature have a critical opportunity to improve the health of the most vulnerable and underserved Californians and reinvigorate the state’s efforts to address HIV, STIs, viral hepatitis, and overdose as we begin recovering from the pandemic,” said Assemblymember Low. “I applaud the Governor for proposing unprecedented new investments to rebuild the state’s depleted public health infrastructure, increase access to behavioral health services and substance use disorder treatment, and expand access to health care for all Californians regardless of immigration status. At the same time, however, targeted public health funding remains essential to ensuring that adequate resources are allocated to tackle these growing public health crises that disproportionately impact LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and other vulnerable communities.”

“Over the last two years, public health departments and community organizations have been stretched to their limits responding to COVID-19 while simultaneously addressing the escalating rates of HIV, STIs, viral hepatitis and overdose,” said APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson. “As California moves into the next phase of the pandemic, it’s time to get serious about addressing these growing public health crises and accelerate prevention, testing, and treatment efforts. Absent these investments, public health efforts to address these epidemics will continue to fall woefully short. We applaud Assemblymember Low for his steadfast commitment to ending these epidemics and improving the health of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities in California.”

The End the Epidemics budget request will build upon and strengthen existing efforts to address these epidemics, including the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative and the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan. Specifically, the coalition is urging the Governor and Legislature to support the following priorities:

  • Syphilis and Congenital Syphilis Strategy: $49 million one-time funding to address alarming increases in cases of syphilis and congenital syphilis. There has been a 349% increase in reported syphilis cases over the past decade. Cases of congenital syphilis, which occur when syphilis is transmitted from a pregnant person to their child during pregnancy, increased 631% over the same period.
     
  • Hepatitis B (HBV) Outreach, Screening, and Linkage to Care: $8 million one-time funding to identify best practices for improving HBV outreach, screening, and linkage to care. HBV continues to represent one of the largest unsolved health inequities in the U.S. and California. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are eight times more likely to die from HBV than white Americans.
     
  • Hepatitis C (HCV) Prevention and Linkage to Care: $20 million ongoing funding to improve the capacity of local health departments and community organizations to provide HCV outreach, testing, and linkage to care and treatment services. The annual rate of HCV has tripled over the last decade driven primarily by injection drug use, with the highest rates among young adults.
     
  • Health Equity and Harm Reduction Initiative: $20 million ongoing funding to sustain and expand the state’s current investment in lifesaving harm reduction infrastructure, including syringe services programs and overdose prevention programs. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the already alarming rate of drug overdose has significantly worsened – overdose deaths are up 45% in California since June 2020.
     
  • Close the STI Coverage Gap for LGBTQ+ Californians: $7 million ongoing funding to support the expansion of access to STI testing and treatment services for low-income, uninsured LGBTQ+ individuals through the Family PACT program. The program already has a network of more than 2,200 culturally competent providers well-positioned to deliver STI services to this population.
     
  • Increase Condom Access for Youth in Schools: $750,000 ongoing funding to make free condoms available in public high schools, middle schools, and school-based health centers that opt in to the program. Over half of all STIs in the state are experienced among California youth, but condom use among sexually active teens has declined significantly over the last decade.

Over the coming months, End the Epidemics will mobilize community members to educate their elected officials about the importance of these investments. The coalition will host a “Virtual Week of Action” from April 25-29, during which advocates will meet with their elected officials to share how the increased funding would positively impact their communities. More information about the End the Epidemics budget request can be found here.

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ABOUT APLA HEALTH: APLA Health’s mission is to achieve healthcare equity and promote well-being for the LGBTQ+ and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV. We remain committed to ending the AIDS epidemic in our lifetime. We are a nonprofit, federally qualified health center serving more than 18,000 people annually. We provide 20 different services at 16 locations throughout Los Angeles County, including: medical, dental, behavioral health and HIV specialty care; PrEP counseling and management; health education and HIV prevention; and STD screening and treatment. For people living with HIV, we offer housing support; benefits counseling; home healthcare; and the Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries; among several other critically needed services. Additionally, we are leaders in advocating for policy and legislation that positively impacts the LGBTQ+ and HIV communities and conducting community-based research on issues affecting the communities we serve. Its signature fundraising event, AIDS Walk Los Angeles, has drawn hundreds of thousands of supporters to walk, and millions more to donate, raising more than $91 million to combat HIV and AIDS since 1985. For more information on APLA Health visit https://aplahealth.org.