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California Governor Davis Signs Bill Adding HIV Care -- Needle Law Still on His Desk

September 19, 2002

California Gov. Gray Davis yesterday signed a new law modestly expanding the number of people with HIV who are eligible for state-paid health care, but he may veto a more significant AIDS-related bill allowing the purchase of up to 30 needles and syringes without a prescription.

Current law states that only disabled people with HIV are eligible to be treated under Medi-Cal, the state's health care program for the poor. The new law entitles low-income people with HIV to Medi-Cal benefits; it affects fewer than 1,700 lower-income Californians enrolled in the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

AIDS activists praised Davis' signature but also urged him to sign the needle bill. Davis' spokesperson said the governor has yet to take a position on the syringe bill. Its backers, however, claim that aides to Davis say he is reluctant to sign the bill without law enforcement support. The California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Peace Officers Association oppose the bill and say existing needle exchange programs are sufficient.

The long list of public health groups and other supporters of the measure argue that it provides the most effective way to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis among intravenous drug users. Forty-four other states allow needle purchases without a prescription. Such laws have been signed by Democratic and Republican governors.

The Medi-Cal bill requires federal waivers before it can be implemented. Several other states have similar programs in place. The law will take effect either in July 2003 or when the waivers are approved. A study by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the AIDS Policy Research Center at the University of California- San Francisco found that the law would affect fewer than 700 people in the first year, growing to fewer than 1,700 in its fifth year.

Back to other CDC news for September 19, 2002

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Adapted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
09.19.02; Greg Lucas; Lynda Gledhill

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More HIV Treatment Policy News on California


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