Maine: State Weighs HIV Testing Policy Change
December 29, 2006
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MCDC) wants to make HIV testing routine in order to make it more accessible to some one-third of residents who are HIV-infected but do not know it. However, any changes in HIV testing policies must first pass the state Legislature.
Currently, HIV screening must be specifically requested by patients, or by doctors who detect symptoms of the disease, said Mark Griswold, MCDC's epidemiologist for the HIV, STD and viral hepatitis program. In Maine, HIV is most frequently acquired through unprotected sex and intravenous drug use.
MCDC can only recommend an HIV testing policy change. It is working with the Maine HIV Advisory Committee, lawmakers and the state Medical Association to draft a bill allowing verbal instead of written consent for HIV testing and simplified counseling.
Gloria Leach, director of Merrymeeting AIDS Support Services in Brunswick, worries about streamlined post-test counseling in practice. Ideally, those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS should be counseled about medical and other assistance, she said. Leach also worries about the implication of routine HIV testing for disease stigma and patient confidentiality.
HIV testing is the only medical test in Maine requiring written consent, pre- and post-test counseling. Streamlined screening could help people take precautions against onward transmission and get linked to care earlier, said Griswold.
It is less costly to treat someone with HIV than AIDS, said Griswold. But 40-45 percent of new HIV diagnoses in Maine are made within a year of the patient progressing to AIDS.
Times Record (Brunswick)
12.27.2006; Michael Reagan
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.