Illinois: Local Responses to the HIV Testing Guidelines
September 28, 2006
Local HIV/AIDS leaders offered a mixed response to CDC's new HIV testing recommendations calling for routine voluntary, opt-out screening of people ages 13-64 in health care settings. Generally, HIV agencies are in favor of expanded testing, but they are concerned the recommendations may jeopardize patient consent and prevention counseling.
Matt Sharp of Test Positive Aware Network has "mixed feelings" about the recommendations. "There [have] always been concerns with a government HIV name-based reporting system," that patients' fear of disclosure could ultimately deter people from testing, he said. He acknowledged that name-based HIV reporting "is being implemented in order to ensure government funding for services and care, getting people to take advantage of current treatments." He expressed concern, however, about the role of counseling under the new recommendations.
Jim Pickett, policy director of AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), is against de-linking HIV screening from specific consent. "Why do we think testing is going to stop this epidemic?" he asked. "Right now, we have over half a million who live with HIV/AIDS who don't have regular access to health care." Illinois law requires pre-test counseling, said Pickett: "That law was put into effect for a reason; it's good public health."
"The very same laws that describe how testing's supposed to be in Illinois have critical safeguards regarding privacy and confidentiality," said David Munar, associate director of AFC. Munar hopes state testing laws will proceed independently with what works for Illinois. He feels pre-test counseling and informed consent get short shrift in the new recommendations. "It doesn't make sense to encourage doctors and health care workers to have fewer conversations about HIV."
Windy City Times (Chicago)
09.27.2006; Andrew Davis