Georgia AIDS Coalition
May 16, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Georgia Modernizes HIV Laws and Attains Funding for People Living with HIV
ATLANTA, GA — In a strong display of support for ending the HIV epidemic in Georgia, the Georgia General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, bills that modernize HIV laws passed in the 80s and 90s to better reflect current knowledge and understanding of HIV and provided funding for medications
for people living with HIV.
The Georgia AIDS Coalition which helped lead coalition efforts, congratulates the bipartisan members of the Georgia Senate and House who worked together to pass this legislation. In the House, we thank Rep. Sharon Cooper who worked hard to ensure Senate Bill 164 would reach the finish line. We also thank Senator Chuck Hufstetler, the lead sponsor of SB 164 along with Senators Kay Kirkpatrick, Nan Orrock, and Gloria Butler. We also thank the following for their diligent work and assistance to pass SB 164:
- Jocelyn Whitfield, J.D., in a volunteer capacity
- Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Mazie Lynn Guertin, J.D. and Stephen Scarborough, J.D.
- Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, Peter Skandalakis, J.D. and Robert Smith, J.D.
- Medical Association of Georgia, Bethany Sherrer, J.D.
- Demetrius Mazacoufa, J.D. in a volunteer capacity (Georgia AIDS Coalition, retired)
- The Georgia AIDS Coalition Legislative Team, Travis Lindley and Devin Krecl
“Passage of this legislation will directly contribute to reducing stigma, helping connect people living with HIV in Georgia to care in order to prevent new infections and protect people living with HIV from unjust prosecution,” said Cathalene Teahan, President of the Georgia AIDS Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to
ensuring effective public policy in Georgia regarding HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. SB 164 helps ensure that people living with HIV will not be prosecuted unless there is an intent to transmit HIV and clarifies that there must also be a significant risk of transmission. This helps to ensure that people living with HIV who have used condoms, or who cannot transmit HIV have a defense to potentially invalid charges. SB 164 also ensures syringes and needles will not be considered drug paraphernalia. “We are pleased that this legislation removes transmission of hepatitis from Georgia’s criminal code. This allows us to fully focus on preventing and treating hepatitis as a public health issue which we hope will help us to find people with hepatitis and link them to effective treatment and cures, ultimately lowering our rates of hepatitis in Georgia,” said Teahan.
The Georgia AIDS Coalition additionally led efforts to secure $9,900,884 to fund the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) for a state match to stabilize the program for both the Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 budgets. This will help ensure that the state ADAP program remains robust and continues to effectively serve its clients.
“There are nearly 59,000 people living with HIV in Georgia and Georgia has one of the highest rates of new diagnoses,” said Teahan. “Additional funding for the State ADAP will help people living with HIV in Georgia obtain access to care, eventually lowering their viral loads and lead them to enjoy longer,
healthier lives. This will also help prevent new infections contributing to an overall healthier Georgia.”
Finally, Georgia AIDS Coalition also notes passage of SB 539, lead sponsor Senator Bo Hatchett, to protect patient confidentiality by forbidding photographing or recording patients without their consent in waiting rooms of county health departments, including Ryan White Program Clinics. We strongly supported this law and its potential to better ensure the safety and confidentiality of people living with HIV.
As we conclude this year’s legislative session, Georgia AIDS Coalition thanks the Governor, State Senators and Representatives along with our partners and coalition members for this successful modernization of HIV laws and ongoing funding to end the HIV epidemic.
About the Georgia AIDS Coalition
The Georgia AIDS Coalition is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) Georgia corporation created in 1989 to act as an education resource for the formation and articulation of public policy regarding HIV infection, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections. The coalition works to ensure ethical decision-making on HIV/AIDS issues, support prevention programs and testing for TB, STIs and Hepatitis and assist in linking individuals to care programs, educate and update the public, agencies and public officials on HIV/AIDS related issues and advocate for HIV/AIDS issues among Georgia communities and to Georgia’s policymakers.