Updates from the Task Force on Women's Issues

Governor Signs Jaffee Bill Giving Sexual Assault Victims Life-Saving Medicine
Traumatized Victims Currently Face Bureaucratic Barriers to HIV-Prevention Treatment; Bill Will Help Save Survivors Lives, While Saving Taxpayer Dollars
June 1, 2012

Albany, NY – Breaking down major barriers to treatment for victims of sexual assault, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) today announced Governor Cuomo has signed in to law her bill to provide expanded HIV-prevention medication and care to all who suffer this most heinous crime.

“No victim of a crime, especially one this traumatic, should ever be denied access to the treatment that can prevent HIV/AIDS,” Assemblywoman Jaffee said. “While no one ever expects to become a victim of sexual assault, everyone has a right to expect the treatment needed to recover is available without red tape or costs standing in the way.”

Jaffee’s bill (A669/S3200), carried by Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) in the Senate, provides sexual assault victims with a 7-day supply of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment to prevent contraction of HIV/AIDS, contingent on their undergoing a forensic rape exam and being found to be at risk of HIV/AIDS exposure. Emergency room departments will then, with the victim’s consent, arrange for or provide medical follow-up.

“It is imperative to provide treatment to rape and sexual assault victims who are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS,” said Senator Kemp Hannon. “This bill will amend the law to enable survivors of sexual assault who have undergone a forensic rape exam to receive a seven day starter pack of HIV PEP treatment and, with their consent, medical follow up related to the PEP treatment. By ensuring a rape or sexual assault victim is provided with appropriate medical follow-up, we will make PEP treatment more accessible, decrease the likelihood that victims will become infected with the virus, and ultimately save the state millions of dollars in treatment costs by preventing potential HIV/AIDS cases.”

Presently, major bureaucratic hurdles block many sexual assault victims from accessing full and proper treatment, leaving these already traumatized survivors vulnerable to a life-threatening infection.

Current state law provides sexual assault victims with only a three-day supply of PEP treatment and does not sufficiently encourage follow-up care. Some at-risk survivors end up not completing PEP treatment for a number of reasons, including: Inability to pay for medication while awaiting reimbursement from the Office of Victims Services; inability to fill out requisite paperwork within three days as a result of paralyzing trauma from the assault; and inadequate time between the current starter pack and follow-up with medical providers.

These shameful failings were brought to Jaffee’s attention by several victims’ advocacy groups, including the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) and Rockland Family Shelter, which, like Jaffee, saw a need for greater protections for sexual assault survivors. Today they’re cheering the bill’s passage.

Joanne Zannoni, Executive Director of NYSCASA, said: “NYSCASA is so pleased that the HIV/PEP bill was passed. This bill will allow victims adequate time to acquire their full dose of medication that will prevent them from contracting HIV. This is such an important bill for victims of sexual assault in New York. We’d like to thank Assemblywoman Jaffee for her continued dedication in getting it passed for victims of sexual assault.”

Carolyn Fish, Executive Director of Rockland Family Shelter, said: “Rockland Family Shelter is delighted to support this bill because it will increase the starter pack dosage of PEP treatment for sexual assault survivors found to be at risk for HIV/AIDS. This is a major step forward towards increasing preventative treatment for sexual assault survivors, and we appreciate Assemblywoman Jaffee’s efforts to champion this bill.”

By increasing the starter pack dosage and ensuring victims receive appropriate medical follow-up, this law will make PEP treatment more accessible, saving the State millions of dollars in treatment costs, and countless lives, by preventing HIV/AIDS cases. The costs of treating HIV/AIDS fall upon the state in nearly 90% of all cases, resulting in a dollar amount, per case, that exceeds preventive treatment by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Equally important, this bill will help restore a sense of safety and support to survivors of these horrendous acts.