A bill to help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and viral hepatitis earned the initial approval of the Maine House Thursday, May 21.

Rep. Christine Burstein, D-Lincolnville, sponsored LD 661, which provides funding for screening, prevention and treatment services through the Maine Center for Disease Control for uninsured Mainers who have contracted or are at-risk of contracting HIV, viral hepatitis and similar diseases.

“With diseases like HIV and viral hepatitis, it’s really crucial to invest in prevention, diagnostic and treatment programs,” said Burstein, a family nurse practitioner. “By working to stop these afflictions before they spread, we save Maine taxpayers money, as well as unnecessary suffering in the long run.”

Burstein was appointed earlier this year to serve on the HIV Advisory Committee, a statewide panel that advises policymakers on HIV- and AIDS-related issues in Maine.

The Maine CDC estimates that more than 2,000 Mainers were living with HIV as of 2012. The infectious disease damages the immune system by destroying specific blood cells, leaving those infected vulnerable to infections.

The measure faces further votes in the House and the Senate.

Burstein is serving her first term in the Maine House and is a member of the Committee on Health and Human Services. She represents Belmont, Liberty, Lincolnville, Montville, Morrill, Palermo and Searsmont.