July 29, 2010
The Massachusetts State Senate is currently considering a bill that will finally bring Massachusetts law in line with the widely-adopted CDC guidelines recommending routine "opt-out" HIV screening. The bill is being supported by a broad coalition of community health centers, prominent HIV physicians, patients, public health officials, and many others. However, because the legislative session ends on Saturday, July 31, this bill must either pass within the next 72 hours, or die on the Senate floor.
As an individual who was diagnosed late with HIV, I have a personal interest in Senate Bill 2416, and I testified in favor of this legislation last October. Despite numerous clinical visits over two years during which I could -- and should -- have been tested, I was not. If routine opt-out testing had been available in Massachusetts four years ago, it would have allowed me to know my status sooner and begin treatment earlier.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. Opponents claim that falling number of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts between 1999 and 2007 supports maintaining the status quo of opt-in HIV testing. This argument simply ignores the hard facts:
The battle over SB 2416 is starting to receive attention beyond Massachusetts. Over the past few weeks, both The Huffington Post and The Boston Globe have published articles and editorials in support. More national attention needs to be put on the backwards activism that is taking place in Massachusetts.
As long as there are still thousands of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed individuals in Massachusetts, maintaining the status quo just isn't good enough.
Ed Perlmutter was diagnosed with HIV in July 2006, and has been receiving HIV therapy through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study since September 2006. He is a manufacturing manager at Pearson Learning Solutions in Boston.