A federal judge in Texas ruled that requiring employers to provide healthcare coverage that includes HIV prevention pills is a religious freedom violation.
In a Sept. 7 decision, district judge Reed O’Conner of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Braidwood Management, Inc., who challenged that preventive care mandates in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violated the Constitution and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Braidwood argued providing health care coverage to employees that included HIV prevention medications goes against Christian Bible teachings and “the authoritative and inherent word of God.”
The plaintiffs – six individuals and two businesses – believe that providing coverage for PrEP drugs, contraception, the HPV vaccine and STD screenings and behavioral counseling “facilitates and encourages homosexual behavior, intravenous drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.”
“This argument is not only terribly prejudiced, but it is also simply wrong,” countered Dr. Aliza Norwood, a Texas-based internal medicine physician and HIV specialist, in an op-ed published by NBC News. “PrEP is used by hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. of all sexual orientations and genders. I see many patients, young and old, gay and straight, of all races and political affiliations, who do not fit the narrow stereotypes mentioned in the lawsuit.”
Studies have shown pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sex by 99% and by 74% for intravenous drug users. In 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended PrEP for those at a high risk of catching the virus that causes AIDS.