Judge Reed O'Connor, the U.S. District judge in Forth Worth, Texas, recently ruled that the HIV prevention drugs coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) infringes on their religious freedom.

What the Federal Court Ruling Says

According to a report by UPI, Judge O'Connor concurred with the argument of a Christian conservative organization that religious employers should not be forced to pay for HIV prevention drugs for their employees.

The report said O'Connor's ruling stemmed from a 2020 class-action lawsuit filed by Christian entrepreneurs challenging the constitutionality of the provision in the ACA. 

According to the plaintiffs, the ACA mandate on employer-sponsored health care coverage, including HIV prevention drugs, conflicts with their religious and personal beliefs.

The group argued that they should not be made to pay for something contrary to their religious conviction.

Dr. Steven Hotz, among the petitioners, explained that free access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs such as Descovy and Truvada encourage risky homosexual behavior.

Hotz said since homosexuality runs contrary to his religious belief, he is unwilling to pay for a health care plan that would give his employees access to the drugs.

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What Experts Say About PrEP

Despite Dr. Htz's assertion about the implication of employee access to PrEP drugs, experts paint a different picture of who takes them and how many.

Infectious disease expert, Dr. Satish Mocherla of Dallas' Legacy Community Health Services, said that HIV does not distinguish who to infect.

"The virus doesn't choose who to infect, it can infect anyone. So why a particular demographic is being targeted is a mystery to us," UPI quoted Mocherla saying.

Dr. Mocherla's statement is consistent with data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which revealed that 20% of new HIV cases involve women and not men having sex with men.

Meanwhile, Prism Health North Texas CEO John Carlo argued that it is incorrect to say that PrEP drugs lead to homosexual behavior.

Carlo explained it has been "well studied" that research shows using PrEP drugs does not lead to increased risky sexual behavior.

He added that the drugs also 'do not lead people to use more IV drugs or have more sex.'

Possible Consequences of O'Connor's Ruling

According to UPI, Judge O'Connor's ruling on the class-action lawsuit about PrEP could impact other health care-related matters.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Allison Hoffman explained that the lawsuit forms a "larger pushback" targeting the federal government's "ability to regulate."

She said that O'Connor's ruling specifying PrEP could snowball to mammograms, vaccines, and other preventive health care services covered by the ACA.

"This is opening the doors to things that the ACA tried to eliminate, in terms of health plans that got to pick and choose what of these services they fully covered," Hoffman argued.

Aside from Hoffman, other healthcare experts also weighed in on the potential ramifications of the judge's ruling.

The American Medical Association and 60 other medical groups across the U.S. argued that the ruling could lead to 'patients losing access to critical health care services such as immunizations and screening for illnesses including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.'

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