Dr. Richard Pan Introduces SB 306 to Confront Our Skyrocketing STD Epidemic that has Reached Historic Levels

February 5, 2021

SACRAMENTO,CA – As the United States is in the midst of a major sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) epidemic that has broad-reaching impacts on the health of women, men and maternal-child health, Dr. Richard Pan has partnered with a large and strong coalition of community health organizations throughout the state to introduce Senate Bill 306, the STD Coverage and Care Act, to strengthen California’s public health infrastructure and expand access to STD coverage and care to improve health outcomes and create a more equitable health system.

“Before the pandemic, STD infection rates across the country had reached crisis levels and it has become worse with as an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea spread across the country,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator representing the Sacramento region.  “I am proud to be partnering with such a strong coalition of community health organizations on SB 306 to stop STDs by strengthening public health and expand access to STD diagnosis and treatment.”

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have an STD. Long before the COVID-19 public health emergency, sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates reached historic highs and epidemic proportions in California and nationwide. The STD crisis has been exacerbated during the pandemic with reduced testing and shortages in testing supplies – disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and people of color, California youth, and gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

California has long been a leader in taking a comprehensive and robust approach to expanding access to health care for all. However, the state has lagged in enacting comprehensive policies to increase access to STD screening and treatment, and gaps remain in some of those policies and programs.

SB 306 is sponsored by APLA Health, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Essential Access Health, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  The bill will:

  • Permit the Family PACT program to offer covered benefits to income-eligible patients, even if contraception is not discussed during the patient encounter.
  • Update California’s EPT statute to include provider liability protections used in other states.
  • Permit HIV Counselors to administer rapid STD tests. 
  • Update state law to require congenital syphilis testing during the third trimester of pregnancy. 
  • Require coverage of home STD tests by public and private insurers.  Access to home test kits is limited due to coverage restrictions.

“California is facing an out-of-control STD crisis that was raging even before the COVID pandemic. Now, following nearly a year of stay-at-home orders, we have mounting evidence that the state’s STD epidemic has grown even worse,” said APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson. “STDs are still on the rise, testing and treatment services are in short supply, and more serious cases of STDs are beginning to emerge. SB 306 is a comprehensive proposal that will strengthen California’s public health infrastructure and expand access to STD testing and treatment at a time when it is most desperately needed. APLA Health is proud to partner with Senator Pan on this critical legislation.”

“For the last 20 years, California has been quietly fighting a battle to address soaring STD rates with one hand tied behind our backs,” said Nourbese Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness Action Project. “This bill expands the tools and resources that advocates and health providers can use to confront this epidemic that disproportionally impacts black and brown young women. We applaud Senator Pan for taking on this issue and introducing such an important piece of legislation.”

“Bold action is urgently needed to combat skyrocketing STD rates, improve health outcomes, and achieve greater health equity in our state,” said Sergio Morales, Associate Vice President of Programs at Essential Access Health and leader of the organization’s STD Prevention Center. “This preventable public health crisis has been ignored for far too long. We thank Senator Pan for leading the way forward. Together we can and must make the promise of SB 306 a reality for Californians in need of STD coverage and care without delay.”

"This bill will expand considerable access to rural areas of our State, especially the Central Valley, where health services are few and far between - often more than 20-30 miles between clinics,” said Marissa Corpus, Health Education Manager, Fresno Barrios Unidos. “Expanding coverage to STD care is a step toward healthcare equity and opens up medical pathways for our un- and underinsured communities, specifically immigrant, LGBTQ, and young people."

“California's STD epidemic is a public health crisis that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, including LGBT people,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “SB 306 will ensure that LGBT people have increased access to STD testing and treatment and is a crucial step forward in ensuring that California can and will end the STD epidemic. We commend Dr. Pan for introducing SB 306, his continued leadership on the issue, and for being a champion for our community. We are proud to stand with him.”

“Allowing HIV counselors to perform rapid STD tests is a commonsense, practical solution to getting more people tested and treated for STDs. This legislation will help California address its STD epidemic by ensuring that people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, young people, women, and other communities experiencing high rates of infections can access HIV, HCV, and STD testing from a singular, properly-trained test counselor in a safe and trusted setting. We applaud Senator Pan for his commitment to ending the sexual health crisis in the state and look forward to partnering on this legislation.”  Joe Hollendoner, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

###

Dr. Richard Pan is a parent, small business owner, former UC Davis educator and pediatrician who represents Sacramento, West Sacramento, Elk Grove and unincorporated areas of Sacramento County in the state legislature and is the Chair of the Senate Health Committee. As a legislator, Dr. Pan continues to practice medicine at WellSpace Health Oak Park Community Clinic, pursuing his passion for working with families to build healthier communities.