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Routine Opt-Out HIV Testing in 2011: The Road to Civility Is Paved With Forgiveness

December 6, 2010

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Dateline 2010: If you can't come up with a logical argument to defend your position on any issue, then hot diggity, pull a bouquet of propaganda and non-truths from your rear-end and call them blue-ribbon winning flowers from this year's Topsfield Fair.


And that's the sad political lesson I learned in 2010: The moment prominent and well-funded groups make a case against a particular issue (in this case, routine opt-out HIV testing), even if their arguments are based in nothing remotely close to the truth, it oddly sticks and becomes "truth-based." If Group X says it's true, then it must be true. Must it not be true? Reopen the Road to Civility, that's what I say. And I'll be here to help make it happen. Please join me.

While the Road to Civility may be temporarily closed, I am pleased to report the Validation Highway is wide open, and goes a long way in clearing one's head. Imagine the way I felt when the Boston Globe's lead editorial on July 13, 2010, supported the claims and positions I'd been making about Senate Bill 2416 for months:

While the bill has the support of the heads of many clinics and community health centers serving populations at high risk of HIV infection, including the Fenway Community Health Center in Boston, some AIDS activists oppose it -- most notably the AIDS Action Committee. The group raises the specter that, if the bill passes, patients could be tested without their knowledge. This is false, as is the group's assertion that the bill "would eliminate any need to get your consent for HIV testing" ... Because a company that makes anti-HIV drugs is lobbying for the bill, AIDS Action further depicts the measure as an effort by an "out-of-state pharmaceutical giant'' to "gut critical legal protections for people being tested for HIV." Actually, there's nothing sinister about this bill ...

My year-end update shall not become a doggy downer -- not with validation like that. I remain highly optimistic about the future of routine HIV testing. And 2010 was hardly a washout in the road to routine testing. While we ultimately "lost" our battle to enact routine opt-out HIV testing in the legislative session that ended July 31, 2010, in truth there never was an up-down vote in the Senate or the House, as fear mongering from those opposing this important legislation made a few key senators hesitant to move the bill forward.

But we raised this issue for the very first time at a statewide level. And we made our points clearly and cogently and spoke only about what was in the bill, not what was not in the bill. And we'll raise the issue again this January, when a new legislative session commences, with refined arguments and an energized coalition and an opposition who I hope will decide that it is far better to align itself with the mainstream, and proper, position. The Road to Civility is lined with forgiveness.

On a very bright note, this past April Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin signed into law a measure that moved his state from written informed consent HIV testing to routine opt-out HIV testing. No intermediary steps. No convolution of a model that has worked, does work, and will work. Shout-out to Wisconsin, legislating wicked well done! And that leaves three states left standing with fully intact written informed consent HIV testing on the books: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
HIV/AIDS Year in Review: Looking Back on 2010 (and Ahead to 2011)
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Viewpoints on U.S. HIV Testing Policy

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