BOSTON – On Monday, the House of Representative passed to be engrossed H.3960, An Act renaming the Massachusetts AIDS Fund to be called the State Public Health HIV and Hepatitis Fund, a bill Representative Jennifer Benson sponsored and advocated for this legislative session. This bill would rename the current AIDS Fund to ensure that the Department of Public Health (DPH) can continue to use the funds on AIDS prevention and reduction efforts, but also on illness and death related to infection with HIV or viral hepatitis.
“This is the first session I filed this bill, and I worked hard with my colleagues to get it through the House,” said Representative Benson. “As of 2013, Hepatitis C was one of the highest volume reportable diseases in Massachusetts.”
If signed into law this session, this bill would allow for DPH to use all voluntary tax contributions, grants, donations, and federal reimbursements, made to the fund, to be used for clinical and public health research, program evaluation, prevention and testing, and treatment services. The money would be allowed to be used for outreach efforts to inform groups within the public who are at high risk of infection with HIV or viral hepatitis.
While the bill would rename the fund to include HIV and viral hepatitis, the language ensures that the funds complement, and not replace, current AIDS-related initiatives, and would require the DPH Commissioner to consult with the AIDS advisory board to develop a list of priorities and protocols for the fund.
“The key to reducing the death rate for people reported with HIV/AIDS is ensuring that those already diagnosed remain engaged in care and targeting those at high risk,” said Representative Benson. “DPH is already doing a commendable job combatting this disease; the renaming of the fund will simply allow for the Department to enhance those services and expand research.”
The bill now goes to the Senate for engrossment.