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Treating HIV Infections, Protecting Abuse Victims Addressed In New State Legislation

Missouri legislators focused on advancing protections on issues from rising HIV infections to taxing stimulus checks Wednesday.

Legislators moved forward on bills relating to access to preventative HIV drugs, extending the pandemic stimulus payments’ taxation exemption and extending protection orders for victims of abuse, alongside many others.

The House advanced a bill that would allow pharmacists to distribute drugs to prevent HIV to people without a prescription. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, said that quick access to these drugs can make a huge difference.

“We’ve heard stories from people that have gone to emergency rooms, seeking post-exposure prophylaxis, and emergency rooms have said, ‘We don’t know what that drug is, never heard of it, we don’t do that,’” said Christofanelli. “They may just refer you to a special HIV clinic. And that’s really a disgrace. Because these drugs can save lives.”

Christofanelli said that Missouri is one of seven states in which growing rates have been deemed a pressing issue, and infection rates are especially troubling in rural populations. According to CDC and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services data, Missouri’s rates have risen in recent years, and around 500 new people are infected in the state annually.

Several representatives spoke to the importance of expanding access in addressing that rising problem, especially because of the disproportionate rate of infections in minority populations.

Representatives added an amendment to ensure doctor involvement in determining pharmacists’ dispensation guidelines and gave initial approval to the bill.

The House also perfected HB 991, which exempts income from COVID-19 stimulus payments from state income taxation. Stimulus payments are not subject to federal taxation, and this bill extends the Missouri General Assembly’s decision last year to exempt the first round of stimulus payments.

Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, put forth an amendment to the bill intending to exempt all Missourians under age 26 from state taxes. Trent said the incentive for young people to get into the workforce would stimulate the economy, but he withdrew the amendment after the bill faced criticism from other members concerned about singling out younger people for economic assistance.

Representatives advanced another bill, HB 744, which extends protection orders for victims of abuse. The bill would allow judges to grant lifetime orders to certain cases involving people who’ve suffered severe abuse and are at substantial risk. The extension would allow those who’ve been abused to avoid regularly returning to court and going through interactions with their abusers in order to retain the protection order.

“(This bill) is one of the things that I think the judiciary will be most proud of this year,” said Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty. “It’s very important to a lot of people who find themselves tormented by previous relationships.”