The Illinois House is considering a bill (HB 980) that would remove a state requirement that people receiving HIV tests provide written consent prior to undergoing the test, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to the Tribune , the bill would enact recommendations released last year by CDC that say HIV tests should be part of routine medical care for people ages 13 to 64 and that requirements for written consent and pretest counseling should be dropped. The measure also would rescind part of the state's AIDS Confidentiality Act, which was passed in the 1980s, that states people cannot be tested for HIV without their knowledge.
Advocates from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago are opposed to the bill and have said that counseling still should be available before and after testing to ensure people understand the results and have access to treatment, if necessary, according to the Tribune . Ann Fisher, executive director of ALCC, said that written consent is a "way of proving" patients have received counseling. John Peller, director of state affairs for AFC, said if tests are not done correctly, people "could really be alienated from the health care system." He added that for many people, "there's still a tremendous, deep stigma about testing positive for HIV." Fisher added that she is concerned people might receive HIV tests without their knowledge.
Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health after hearing the concerns raised by HIV/AIDS advocates said they would work with state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D), the bill's sponsor, to add language to the bill that would clarify the need for pre- and post-test counseling and verbal consent prior to testing, the Tribune reports. The CDC recommendations say that people "must not be tested without their knowledge." In addition, the CDC recommendations call for creating an "opt-out" provision so people could choose not to receive the test.
Supporters of the bill say it would help the estimated 10,000 Illinois residents who are unaware they are HIV-positive learn their status and receive access to treatment. Rep. Mary Flowers (D), a bill co-sponsor, said, "We can live with HIV as opposed to dying from it. But you have to know you have it, and the only way to do that is to get tested." The House could vote on the bill this week, the Tribune reports (Manier, Chicago Tribune , 5/1).