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Massachusetts "Opt-Out" HIV Testing Bill: Update

By Ed Perlmutter

August 18, 2010

The following is an update to Ed Perlmutter's July 29 post highlighting the importance of opt-out HIV screening and giving some context on the Massachusetts bill.


The Massachusetts Legislature adjourned its 2009-2010 formal session late on the evening of Saturday, July 31. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the broad-based coalition who support routine "opt-out" HIV screening, the bill that would have made opt-out HIV testing a reality in Massachusetts did not pass.

While the bill has died for this session, it remains abundantly clear that the need for routine opt-out HIV testing in Massachusetts is not going away. Our Commonwealth still has an estimated 5,000 undiagnosed individuals living with HIV who don't even know they have the virus. And this number will grow with each passing week, month, and year -- a reality I consider unconscionable. Moreover, upwards of thirty percent of HIV cases in Massachusetts still continue to be diagnosed late. Given these disheartening facts, it is essential that supporters of routine opt-out testing continue to question the status quo in Massachusetts (at present, Written Informed Consent "opt-in" HIV testing).

The new legislative session begins in January 2011, and with it, another opportunity to renew the push for a common-sense law that will enable more individuals to know their HIV status earlier, get connected to care sooner, and avoid infecting others. While we all recognize that change can often be slow in coming, routine opt-out HIV testing is one lifesaving change that cannot come quickly enough in Massachusetts. And I will be back at our State House advocating for its passage, every step of the way.

Read Perlmutter's entire testimony here.

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See Also
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: DAve (Pa) Mon., Oct. 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm UTC
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Comment by: R (Denver, CO) Sat., Aug. 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm UTC
Opt-out testing would be fine if not for the stigma that continues to be associated with hiv. I fail to see how opt-out testing will remedy this. If I believed myself to be negative or at low risk, I might not care. But, as an hiv+ person who goes to great pains to not have my status be widely known, opt-out testing sets up the well known prisoner's dilemma and could only serve to facilitate disclosure against my wishes. If I do affirmatively opt out, then a
rational observer might wonder what I am trying to hide in addition to making me feel as though I am being deceptive. If I don't opt out, then a whole new group of people now know my status without providing any additional benefit to
me since I am already under treatment. Hence, for the already positive person, who is aware of his or her status, opt-out testing is a lose-lose proposition. I have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
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