March 9, 2011

II. Recommendations

To the State of Mississippi

To the Governor of Mississippi:

  • Support provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (health care reform legislation) that would increase access to health services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Mississippi, including expansion of community health centers, improvement of access to health care providers, and expanded eligibility for Medicaid.

To the Mississippi State Legislature :

  • Increase state investment in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and essential services such as housing and transportation.
  • Expand the income eligibility threshold for Medicaid and expand HIV-related benefits and services including coverage for drug dependence treatment and increased coverage for prescription drugs.
  • Ensure that state agencies are authorized to maximize federal funding for HIV-related services including Medicaid, HIV prevention, housing, and transportation.
  • Repeal statutory requirements for abstinence-only sex and HIV education and replace them with requirements for comprehensive sex education that includes scientifically accurate information about HIV/AIDS and condoms as a method of prevention and ensures that teachers, administrators, and other state officials are not permitted to restrict accurate information about HIV prevention. Ensure that all sex and HIV/AIDS education materials are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
  • Repeal HIV-specific criminal laws that penalize behavior related to HIV disclosure, exposure, and transmission in light of evidence that these laws undermine public health and human rights.
  • Repeal statutory prohibitions on adoption by homosexuals.
  • Repeal the constitutional amendment banning marriage between couples of the same sex.
  • Remove all statutory references to invalid criminal laws prohibiting sodomy between consenting adults.
  • Increase support for legal services for low-income residents including those living with HIV and AIDS.

To the Mississippi Department of Health:

  • Take all necessary steps to ensure that department policy reflects a commitment to protect the human rights of all who come into contact with the STD/HIV Office or other public health services, including the establishment of a Patient’s Bill of Rights, the revision of all relevant forms to comply with human rights standards, the improvement of training and supervision of Disease Intervention Specialists (DISs) and other Department of Health employees, the establishment of a consumer advisory board, and the realization of other recommendations set forth in the report prepared by the State Health Access Research Project (SHARP).
  • Increase efforts to maximize federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and essential services such as housing and transportation.

To the Mississippi Department of Human Services:

  • Ensure adequate access to affordable services for sexual and reproductive health. Terminate the “Just Wait” abstinence program and replace it with comprehensive sex education that includes complete, scientifically accurate information about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

To the Office of Mississippi Medicaid:

  • Increase the income eligibility threshold to ensure adequate access to health services for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Repeal the state requirement for face-to-face interviews for initial and continued Medicaid eligibility.
  • Support the expanded income eligibility for Medicaid provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Apply for a waiver under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to receive federal matching funds for immediate expansion of Medicaid to people living with HIV who are not disabled.

To the United States Government

To the Congress of the United States:

  • Ensure adequate funding for implementation of the National AIDS Strategy including improved access to prevention, treatment, and essential services such as housing and transportation.
  • Ensure adequate HIV/AIDS funding for all regions and ensure that funds for both medical care and housing are targeted to regions, states, and communities that reflect current epidemiological data and where prevention, treatment, and essential services such as housing and transportation are most needed.
  • Repeal legislation supporting or funding abstinence-only education and continue to support and fund comprehensive sex education that includes scientifically accurate information about HIV/AIDS and the use of condoms as a method of prevention. Ensure that all such materials are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.      

To federal agencies including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of National AIDS Policy, and Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Establish clear policy guidelines regarding laws that criminalize behavior related to HIV disclosure, exposure, and transmission to ensure public awareness that these laws undermine public health and human rights while failing to promote either public health or criminal justice. Provide technical assistance to states to repeal and/or revise these laws as recommended in the National AIDS Strategy.
  • Continue the current trend away from funding abstinence-only education and ensure that adequate guidelines, funding, and technical assistance are available at the state and local levels to provide comprehensive sex education that includes scientifically accurate information about HIV/AIDS and condoms as a method of prevention.
  • Consider establishing a “race to the top” program, similar to that in place for education in the United States, that provides financial incentives for states whose HIV/AIDS policies result in measurable progress while complying with public health and human rights standards.

To the United Nations

To the United Nations Committees on Human Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Racial Discrimination; and to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health and Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance; and the United Nations Human Rights Council:

  • Call upon the United States to comply with its international obligations to eliminate disparate racial impact in public health including the disparate racial impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • Call upon the United States to improve oversight, establish incentives, and take other necessary steps to ensure compliance with human rights obligations at the state and local level.