Laura Thomas at 415-283-6366 or Tommy McDonald at 510-229-5215
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has one week to sign legislation that would help reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and bring California in line with the rest of the country.
“What the Governor does in the next week will determine if the Governor is a ‘hero or zero’ when it comes to HIV and hepatitis C prevention,” said Laura Thomas of the Drug Policy Alliance.
California is behind much of the country when it comes to preventing HIV and hepatitis C. California is one of only three states in the country that still prohibits pharmacists from selling syringes to an adult without a prescription. Almost no other state restricts pharmacists in this way. In California thousands of people a year still contract HIV or hepatitis C from sharing injection equipment because they are unable to buy them in a pharmacy. HIV and hepatitis are both costly, deadly diseases, and the cost of caring for them often falls on public resources. A current limited pilot program is due to expire at the end of the year, despite clear evidence of success.
Fortunately, though, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation (SB 1029) that will extend the pilot and allow pharmacies to sell syringes statewide. The legislation has passed the Senate and Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. The Governor has until the end of the month to decide on this bill, along with many others.
“Allowing adults to spend their own money to protect their health and the health of others is a no-cost and highly effective way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases,” said Thomas. “We hope Governor Schwarzenegger chooses to leave a legacy of expanding HIV and hepatitis C prevention in California–saving lives and saving money.”