California: Bill Aims to Make HIV Test Routine
April 13, 2007
A bill that would make HIV screening a routine part of medical care in California passed the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday by an 11-0 vote. Assembly Bill 682, sponsored by Patty Berg (D-Eureka), is designed to normalize the practice of testing for HIV, with a special focus on pregnant women.
Current state law requires doctors to offer HIV tests to pregnant women, giving them the option to either accept or decline. AB 682 would eliminate the need for written consent, though patients could still refuse testing. "This will help slow the spread of HIV, and help people get treatment sooner," said Berg. The California Office of AIDS estimates that about 30,000-40,000 residents are unaware they have HIV.
Cyril Colonius, executive director of the Mendocino County AIDS Volunteer Network, said he supports any measure that helps reduce the stigma surrounding HIV testing. "It will make a significant impact on the number of women who unknowingly have HIV," he said, noting that many women contract the disease from male partners who they do not know are injecting drugs or engaging in homosexual sex. "This is another tool we can use to reduce transmission of HIV," he said.
"This bill is an important preventative health care reform that will increase the number of people who are tested for HIV, leading to a decrease in the number of people who are unknowingly spreading the disease," said Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), who co-sponsored AB 682 with Assembly member Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City).
The measure must still go before the entire Assembly and Senate.
Ukiah Daily Journal
04.12.2007; Katie Mintz