September 27, 2007
California could soon adopt legislation that would make HIV screening a part of standard medical care. AB 682, which calls for patients 13-64 to have such tests done routinely by physicians unless they, or their caregiver, decline, passed the Legislature just one vote shy of unanimous bipartisan support. The bill is backed by the 35,000-member California Medical Association. It now awaits Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature.
The bill's sponsor, Assembly member Patty Berg (D-Eureka), and the Test for Life California coalition say state estimates show around 40,000 Californians do not know they are HIV-infected. "My bill makes HIV screening a routine part of your medical exam, just like screening for cholesterol and diabetes," Berg said Tuesday. Currently, patients must provide specific written consent to have their blood tested for HIV.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said AB 682 "is part of a long road toward normalizing the treatment of HIV." Written informed consent is a major barrier in emergency rooms and other fast-paced medical settings, and doctors complain of being overburdened with paperwork, he said.
Donna Wood, vice president of the Sacramento chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, said the issue is of particular importance to minorities, who are far more likely to learn of their HIV status less than a year before developing AIDS, often too late to receive effective treatment.
09.26.2007; Aurelio Rojas
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