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AIDS advocates pushing for access for teens to medication without parental consent

Ellen Abbott
Officials at ACR Health discuss a proposal to allow teens access to HIV prevention drugs without parental consent.

ACR Health in Syracuse is lobbying hard for proposed state legislation that would allow children under the age of 18 to get access to HIV prevention medication without parental consent.  

Marissa Rice runs the youth services program at ACR Health. She says there’s a certain population in central New York that could really benefit from access to PrEP, a drug which prevents transmission of HIV -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens between the ages of 15 add 18, who have been forced into sex trafficking.

"People living on the streets, kicked out of their homes, they tend to kind of travel the Thruway corridor doing this, down into New York City and other things, and it’s the only way they can make money, being young people pulled in by older adults encouraging this,” said Rice.

She says if these people could have access to Truvada, the PrEP drug that prevents HIV in people who are not infected, there would probably be fewer new aids cases in central New York.

"The three kids that we saw this year that tested positive maybe wouldn’t have been, if they’d had access this."

But these teens, many of whom are homeless and have fractured or nonexistent relationships with a parent or guardian, can’t get that access because it requires parental consent.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a law to get rid of that requirement. It’s part of his overall initiative to end AIDS in New York State by 2020.

Rice says no one is encouraging risky behavior, like unprotected sex or the sharing of needles.

“Adolescence is a time of independence and breaking away from your family and testing things. And so that’s why we know it’s important for young people to have access to that.  Not because it’s great that they go against their parents or their family’s system, but if they’re going to do that, we’d like to maintain their safety, their overall health.”