As a member of the Assembly Select Committee on Infectious Disease in High Risk Communities, I do all I can to ensure California remains at the forefront in combatting serious threats to public health. Human-immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS), the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most serious public health issues facing our state.
That’s why I have joined Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco), to co-author Senate Bill 859, requiring the development and implementation of a master plan to combat these diseases, with the ultimate aim of reducing the new infection rate to zero.
In California, the number of persons diagnosed with HIV increased from 124,235 in 2013 to over 135,000 in 2017. Sexually transmitted diseases in general are growing rapidly and are at the highest levels in 30 years. The increase is greatest among gay and bisexual men, African Americans, and young people between 15 and 24. 400,000 Californians are living with HCV, and most are unaware they have the disease. Newly reported hepatitis cases increased by 50% between 2011 and 2015 among people under 30. Unfortunately, California has fallen behind other states in combatting these diseases.
Our increasing STD rates require immediate action, which is where SB 859 comes in. The bill creates a Stakeholder Advisory Committee, under the direction of the Secretary of HHS and the Chief of the Office of AIDS to work with appropriate state agencies, including annual reports to the Governor and Legislature, regarding development of a Master Plan to recommend strategies, policies and funding to combat this epidemic.
SB 859 will make California the first state with a comprehensive strategy to combat the interrelated epidemics of HIV, HCV, and STDs. Hopefully we can reduce new infections to zero and provide a national example leading to the eventual elimination of these dread diseases.