California: Governor Signs Bill for HIV Testing
October 16, 2002
California Gov. Gray Davis recently signed into law AB 2064, which enables nonprofit organizations with "demonstrated expertise in... HIV testing services" to train urgently needed new HIV testing counselors. Currently, pretest and post-test counselor training and certification are only offered under state supervision via county health departments throughout California in 32-hour, four-day courses. The courses are routinely offered Monday through Friday during traditional business hours. AB 2064 allows for counselor training programs to be "... offered at flexible times, so as to facilitate the training of volunteer and part-time counselors," many of whom may work at alternative testing sites (ATS), which many experts see as key to reaching at-risk populations.
"Given that as many as half of all Californians who are HIV-positive do not know their HIV status, AB 2064 should greatly increase access to HIV testing services by adding newly trained counselors in a more timely manner," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the sponsor of the bill. "These new counselors would be trained by organizations with first-hand, front-line expertise and experience in testing, particularly among high-risk, often hard-to-reach populations such as bathhouse and sex club patrons," Weinstein said. The bill's author, Assemblymember Gil Cedillo, said, "This bill paves the way for a whole new approach to HIV testing."
AHF's testing program, now the largest in the state, is observing its 5th anniversary and the completion of over 25,000 free HIV tests. Most of the tests were done through ATS programs such as in AHF's Out of the Closet thrift store chain. AHF recently added ATS's in a mobile van, in commercial and public sex venues (CSV) with the Adult Industry Medical Group, and in the County of Los Angeles' jail system. Preliminary July 2002 results from just the CSVs yielded an alarming 17 percent seropositivity rate, with six of the 35 people tested HIV-positive. The benchmark for an HIV testing program to be considered successful at identifying new HIV-positive individuals is approximately 2 percent.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.