HHS “Conscience Rights” Rule Threatens Public Health
The final rule released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Thursday affirming support for health care providers who deny care and treatment based on their religious beliefs reinforces stigma and discrimination, with clear negative impacts to the administration’s initiative to End the HIV Epidemic within the next decade.
Disregarding the imperatives of science and evidence-based medical practices to health care, and giving credence to misconceptions regarding populations disproportionately affected by public health threats that include the HIV epidemic, the opioid crisis, and rising rates of viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, the new rule perpetuates social and structural barriers that keep individuals affected by, or at risk for HIV and other stigmatized conditions from accessing prevention, care and treatment services.
HHS states that it will review concerns on the rule’s impact on access to HIV prevention, care and treatment, as well as on treatment for gender dysphoria, on a case-by-case basis. This response disregards the basic rights of people at risk for HIV, living with HIV or who are transgender to have access to the medical care and treatment recognized by our country’s medical establishment as the standard of care. As a society of medical providers, HIVMA will continue to emphasize that all health care providers have an ethical and professional obligation to provide all patients with humane and competent medical treatment and care.