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.