USD Students Help Pass New Legislation to Tackle Social Justice Issue

begin quoteCalifornia would be the first sate to pass this law and we are hopeful that our state will also be the first to get to zero new HIV infections

SB 159, a new law for HIV prevention that addresses social justice concerns in healthcare for individuals at risk of HIV exposure, is awaiting signature by Governor Gavin Newsom. SB 159 authorizes pharmacists to furnish pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients without a physician prescription, and stops insurance companies from requiring patients to obtain prior authorization before using their insurance benefits to obtain PrEP or PEP.  

The roots of SB 159 begin here at the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) in Fall 2018 while students enrolled in the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program were participating in a course taught by Professor Howard Wayne, JD, former CA Assembly member. Working in partnership with local organizations, SOLES students, Sara Brooks, Tracey Mueller-Gibbs, and Joanna Sansoterra developed a proposal to increase access, awareness, and affordability of PrEP and PEP in our state. Sara, Tracey and Joanna traveled to Sacramento in January of this year with a proposal in support of California pharmacists furnishing PrEP and PEP, allowing these medications to reach more individuals at risk. They spent the day approaching legislators with their proposal and at the end of the day, the students left Sacramento with their proposal on its way to becoming SB 159.

Over several months, the bill gained high profile advocates and legislators. Through the legislative process, their bill lost some of its original depth, but SB 159 still embodies the framework for change the students were seeking. As the students learned through their studies, each step taken in Sacramento is a new foundation for future progress on this important issue. 

The students are proud to be a part of this change. For Joanna, this legislation is a testament to her passion for the LGBT community and she dedicates her part in this process to the memory of her cousin, Vincent Acosta, who was one of the first to contract HIV and eventually succumb to AIDS. For Tracey, this bill is another step toward equity for all in healthcare, a cause for which she began advocating after the untimely death of her son, Rowan. For Sara, this was always an opportunity to support local organizations fighting this epidemic with viable policy solutions that would lead to meaningful change. The student team expresses “California is the first state to pass this law and we are hopeful that our state will also be the first to get to zero new HIV infections. SB 159 is a step towards that goal.”

Sara, Tracey and Joanna’s efforts were part of the Advocacy Skills and Strategies course, taught by Howard Wayne.  As part of this course, students are encouraged to develop policy solutions around an issue they are passionate about and pursue policy change at the state level. Policy Advocacy, taught by Jeff Unsicker complements this course by teaching students to examine existing campaigns and make substantive contributions. SOLES offers both classes in combination as part of a concentration in Government Policy and Advocacy, guiding students in becoming changemakers in social justice through effective advocacy.

photo of three students going to Sacramento to pass bill 159


Corinna Lewis


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