ANNAPOLIS (February 19, 2019)—State legislation could allow minors to consent to preventative treatment for human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis—commonly referred to as "PrEP"—consists of a single pill of a medicine called Truvada taken every day. This can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV from sex by 90 percent and among intravenous drug users by 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In recent years, HIV has been on the rise among young people in Maryland with a steady increase in diagnoses among those aged 13-24 since 1999. In 2017, 5.5 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the state were for people age 13-19, an increase from the 4.6 percent seen in 2015, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
People younger than 18 in Maryland can already give consent for several medical procedures including treatments for drug abuse, alcoholism and sexually transmitted diseases, said Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, the lead sponsor for the bill.
This bill—Senate bill 251—would put this pre-exposure treatment on par with those other procedures, Lam said.
"There are many minors who are not able to talk to their parents about sexually transmitted infections," Lam said."This doesn't really mean they have bad parents, so to speak. It may be just that a child is not yet comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation, to tell a parent they are sexually active or for a variety of other reasons," he said.
While the NAACP had originally opposed the bill, it switched to a neutral stance. Testifying on behalf of the organization, Jo Saint-George noted that HIV affects African-American communities disproportionately. Saint-George emphasized the necessity of expanding the bill to include other treatments that may become available in the future.
"They're talking about PrEP now, but there may be other things out there," Saint-George said.
The bill states that a doctor may still choose to inform the parents of a minor who has been provided treatment.
Corresponding legislation, House bill 1183, is scheduled to be heard by the House of Delegates Wednesday.
Seventeen other states allow minors to consent to preventative HIV treatment, Lam said.