State Senator Thomas Morahan (R-New City) and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) announced legislation that will streamline the payment process for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment, which is critical to protecting victims of sexual assault at risk of HIV/AIDS infection (S.7306/A.9915-A).
Under the current procedure, victims, in most cases, who do not have health insurance or who are insured but are reluctant to use their insurance because of privacy or personal safety concerns, must submit paperwork for reimbursement for the cost of PEP treatment to the New York State Crime Victims Board. The high out-of-pocket cost and paperwork intimidates many victims into forgoing therapy, putting themselves and any future partners at risk of HIV/AIDS infection, exacerbating the spread of the disease.
The measure, authored by Assemblywoman Jaffee and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Morahan, would streamline the reimbursement process so that it would be handled directly between the hospital or health care provider and the Crime Victims Board, with no out-of-pocket expense to the victim. It is hoped that the simplified payment procedure will increase the number of victims opting for and completing PEP treatment, stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“Victims of sexual assault should not also have to be victims of red tape to get this life-saving treatment,” said Assemblywoman Jaffee. “Removing any obstacles to treatment and making PEP fully accessible to victims of sexual assault is a crucial step to protecting the life of the victim and curtailing the spread of the virus.”
While a full course of treatment is approximately $450 (wholesale) per person, the cost to the state of PEP treatment for every victim of sexual assault in one year is less than one year of treatment for one person infected with HIV/AIDS.
"Victims of sexual assault need immediate access to medical personnel who can assess the level of their risk of exposure to HIV, as well as recommending HIV PEP treatment. As a result of our legislation, Assemblywoman Jaffee and I seek to ensure that were HIV PEP treatment be recommended by medical professionals, victims of sexual assault, regardless of their ability to pay, would get vital HIV PEP treatment to prevent HIV from multiplying and spreading," said Senator Morahan. "It takes only a few days from the time of exposure for HIV to establish itself in the body, so time is of the essence."
Last year, there were 6,607 arrests made for sexual offenses in New York State, but that number belies the true number of victims of sexual assault. According to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA), which supports this legislation, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 23,655 cases of sexual assault were reported in 2000. It is believed, however, that only a fraction of cases are reported to authorities.
“This essential legislation will enable survivors of sexual assault to finally receive HIV prevention medication quickly and seamlessly in a time when survivors most need compassionate care,” said Kiera Pollock, Director of Sexual Trauma Services at Rockland Family Shelter. “Without this legislation survivors of sexual violence will continue to have to wade through lengthy application processes, insufficient funds, and the crisis of just being assaulted to get this life-saving medication. Survivors of sexual violence deserve better treatment, and support in their time of crisis. I commend Assemblywoman Jaffee and Senator Morahan for this legislation for understanding the plight of survivors of sexual violence and looking to ease their burden after a crime so traumatic."