HIV Advocacy Day at the Texas State Capitol

By Crystal Townsend and Steven Vargas, Achieving Together Partners

HIV advocates, including Texas HIV Syndicate members and Achieving Together partners, came together in Austin for HIV Advocacy Day, on March 20, 2019.  Over 50 advocates participated, including people from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, and Austin. Senator Borris Miles and colleagues recognized HIV Advocacy Day attendees from the floor of the Texas Senate for the first time ever.

Advocates visited over 40 legislative offices throughout the day to discuss issues affecting HIV prevention, care, and treatment.


House Bill (HB) 762 addresses opt-out HIV testing during annual medical screenings. Routine and widespread HIV testing is crucial for getting individuals living with HIV diagnosed and into care, avoiding further transmissions, and decreasing stigma. In order to reach our goal, we must normalize routine HIV testing by increasing the number of people being tested for HIV. Many people do not realize that HIV testing is not included as a regular part of their annual wellness exams. HB 762 allows health care providers to test the patients they serve routinely and is based on guidance from the CDC and the United States Prevention Services Task Force (USPSTF). These guidelines require coverage of HIV testing without cost-sharing or out-of-pocket costs for non-grandfathered, private health insurance plans, Medicare, and traditional Medicaid plans. The bill is currently pending in committee.

Senate Bill (SB) 17 would allow anyone licensed by the State of Texas to discriminate by imposing a religious litmus test. Less than a week after HIV Advocacy Day, Achieving Together Partner Steven Vargas was back at the Capitol to provide testimony against SB 17 to the Senate State Affairs Committee. Steven shared copies of the Achieving Together Plan with every committee member. He highlighted Achieving Together’s goal to create a stigma-free environment and the ways that SB 17 would work against this goal. Dozens of witnesses, including clergy from various faith traditions, medical and counseling providers, and members of the business community testified against the bill. LGBTQ individuals shared personal stories of discrimination and its effects. Only seven people testified in support of SB 17; however, the committee voted to move the bill out of committee and onto a full vote by the Senate.


1.Find your State Representative.

Email or call your State Senator and tell them to vote “NO” on SB 17 when it comes to the Senate floor.

2. Contact members of the House Insurance Committee and tell them you support HB 762.


SB 1283, MILES: Antiretrovirals as a Protected Class

Relating to HIV and AIDS treatment and prescription drug benefits.
Status: Introduced on February 28 2019 – 25% progression
Action: 2019-03-07 – Referred to Health & Human Services
Pending: Senate Health & Human Services Committee

HB 1722, COLEMAN: Syringe Exchange

Relating to the establishment by counties and municipalities of disease control programs to reduce the risk of certain infectious and communicable diseases; authorizing fees.
Status: Introduced on February 13 2019 – 25% progression
Action: 2019-03-04 – Referred to County Affairs
Pending: House County Affairs Committee

HB 2161, TALARICO: Sex Education in Public Schools
Relating to human sexuality education in public schools
Status: Introduced on February 21 2019 – 25% progression
Action: 2019-03-06 – Referred to Public Education
Pending: House Public Education Committee

SB 2205, RODRIGUEZ: Criminal Immunity for HIV
Relating to programs established to eliminate injection-associated infectious diseases; providing certain civil and criminal immunity.
Status: Introduced on March 8 2019 – 25% progression
Action: 2019-03-21 – Referred to Health & Human Services
Pending: Senate Health & Human Services Committee


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Photos courtesy of Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition

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