March 10, 2006
On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey told the Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary that a bill to require sex offenders to undergo testing for HIV and other STDs "will provide crucial information and peace of mind to victims of sexual assault." Massachusetts is one of just five states that do not mandate STD testing of sex crime defendants.
If an alleged sex offender tests positive, victims can begin the post-exposure prophylaxis, Healey told the committee. If they test negative, victims can stop taking PEP, which can cause side effects.
In January, Gov. Mitt Romney proposed the legislation after a Framingham man who is allegedly HIV-positive was charged with rape.
"If this can provide any modicum of relief after the rape then barriers should be removed so victims can make informed decisions about their life and their health care," said Toni Troop, a spokesperson for the victims-rights group Jane Doe Inc.
The bill faces opposition from some AIDS activists and civil libertarians. "In most medical settings [testing] can take two to three weeks and that simply is not going to help a survivor," said Ben Klein, AIDS Law Project director for Massachusetts Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. "Generally, a survivor needs to make a decision about whether to undergo preventative treatment with HIV medication within 72 hours at the outside."