And, if so, how can telehealth companies fill the gaps for patients across the country?
To Put it In Context, Let’s Talk about Kelley vs. The United States of America
According to Bloomberg, “Groundbreaking drugs that prevent HIV infection may be harder to get in the US if a prominent Texas lawyer wins a lawsuit that pits his clients’ religious beliefs against free nationwide access to the medicines.”
Kelley vs. The United States of America was filed by Texas lawyer Jonathan Mitchell in 2020 and challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance providers must cover PrEP. After the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, many LGBTQIA+ activists fear that this case might get its time in court.
Of course, this case was filed with the misconception that HIV is only contracted by people within the LGBTQIA+ community, a stigma that has existed since the HIV crisis first began in the 1980s.
We asked Erice Taylor, RN and provider at the Center for Health Empowerment (CHE) in Austin, Texas his thoughts on this news. “I work with the LGBTQIA+ community and heterosexual people. I can confidently say that heterosexual people often have just as many if not more risk factors for contracting HIV. HIV is fair game for anybody.”
What Does This Mean?
Just like the overturn of Roe vs. Wade gave back state’s rights to decide parameters around abortion access, if Mitchell won this case, states would decide about whether or not employers would be required to provide PrEP to their employees through insurance.
Taylor shared his concern about this possibility. “We know we have issues keeping HIV under control. PrEP prevents that, and you want to find a way to stop that? People need this drug and it works. I don’t understand denying access from a clinical perspective.”
For providers, this decision could spark frustration and fear. “This has spilled over into what we do medically. As a provider who provides access to patients who need care, it’s my duty to provide quality services. Most providers that have access to those services without violating regulations are going to continue providing them because that’s what we signed up for,” Taylor said.
Organizations like Q Care Plus, though, could really fill in the gaps and continue providing PrEP to those who might no longer be able to receive it through their employers.
99% of Q Care Plus’s patients pays $0 for PrEP. In addition, Q Care Plus’s team of providers are LGBTQIA+ affirming and specialize in HIV prevention and sexual health. So, even in states where there is less access or more fear around seeking a provider, virtual provider visits like what Q Care Plus offers provides safety, privacy, and security.
What Can You Do?
First of all, whatever feelings you have about this or other recent news are valid. Take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health if possible.
Know that there are people who will help to continue providing PrEP, like Q Care Plus.
PrEP is a valuable public health tool, and it is here to stay. Stay up to date on this issue by following Q Care Plus on social media or finding other reliable sources so you can help advocate for your rights.
Taylor said, “I do think this is an overstep. As a provider, I feel this is a violation of our rights. I think we will have to get creative about how we provide services because lives will be saved through PrEP. We have to continue providing this resource.”
Eric Taylor holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of South Alabama.
He has served in various clinical and administrative roles with the Department of Veteran Affairs, including Critical Care Registered Nurse, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, GI/Hepatology Nurse Practitioner, Chair of the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Council, and currently the Lead Home Telehealth Nurse Practitioner.
He also currently serves as NP Faculty in the Primary Care Center of Excellence at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, is an instructor of Nursing at the University of Texas, and works at The Center for Health Empowerment as an RN specializing in PrEP.