Coburn Introduces HIV Testing Bill in Waning Days of Congress
Criticizing the CDC for sponsoring "blind" HIV testing studies without informing patients who test positive for the virus, Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) yesterday introduced the "Right to Know Act of 2000," legislation that would prohibit the use of federal funds for HIV screening programs that fail to "make every reasonable effort" to inform patients of test results. "Never again should anyone ever be denied the knowledge of an HIV diagnosis or the medical care that can save their lives," Coburn said. Since the 1980s, the CDC has conducted "blind" studies at 51 clinics nationally to determine the size and demographics of HIV/AIDS cases in the United States, Coburn noted, adding that "up to 90%" of those testing positive for HIV were never told they had contracted the virus. According to Coburn, the CDC "rationalizes" the tests by conducting studies at clinics that offer counseling and voluntary HIV screening to patients. However, he called the testing "criminal" and the CDC "despicable" for allowing unknowingly HIV-positive patients "to die and infect others" (Coburn release, 11/1). Backing Coburn's bill, AIDS activist Michael Petrelis of AIDS-Statistics.com called the CDC testing "the height of medical neglect," concluding, "Today we have the CDC engaging in blinded HIV tests, then not informing patients that they are infected ... This unethical blinded HIV testing must be halted" (AIDS-Statistics release, 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.