New York State Senate Candidates Debate Court-Ordered HIV Testing for Alleged Assault Perpetrators
New York state Sen. Liz Krueger (D), who is running for reelection this year, said last week that she might support a revised bill that would allow court-ordered HIV testing for people who commit rape and sexual assault, the Island Heights Our Town reports. The state Senate in June passed a bill that would allow court-ordered testing of people accused of committing rape or sexual assault for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases before they stand trial. Krueger voted against the bill, stating at the time that public health experts recommend HIV testing of defendants only when such testing "provides information of 'substantial medical benefit'" to a person who has been assaulted. Brad Usher, Krueger's chief of staff, said that medical experts believe such testing as stipulated in the bill "does not provide benefit" and that the New York State AIDS Advisory Council supports Krueger's position on the measure. Krueger said that the bill is too broad because it would allow testing of people who allegedly committed acts, such as kicking and shoving, that do not put others at risk of being infected with HIV or other STDs. But Andrew Eristoff (R), Krueger's opponent, criticized her for opposing the bill and said the state advisory council supports the bill. Eristoff cited a 1996 council policy that endorses pretrial HIV testing "provided specific conditions are met." Eristoff and other supporters said the bill is "imperative" because "the time between the attack and conviction can be torturous" for a sexual assault survivor who does not know whether he or she contracted HIV or another STD. Eristoff said that by opposing the bill, Krueger is "putting criminals' civil rights above rape victims' right to know."
Krueger said last week that she supports a modified version of the bill that would limit testing to instances of sexual assault in which a person is placed at risk for disease and that would be written "so as not to discourage" survivors from receiving immediate prophylactic treatment. "Getting the accuser tested may help [the survivors'] state of mind, but it cannot be used as a basis to not start treatment," Krueger said. Molly Williams, a spokesperson for the Medical Society of the State of New York, said that doctors will not give antiviral drugs to an assault survivor without knowing whether the perpetrator had a disease. But Anne Liske, executive director of the New York Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said, "Rather than lose time waiting for test results from the perpetrator, the most important immediate steps hospitals can take with survivors are to assess risk, advise, inform and offer HIV and other [STD] prophylactic treatment." Eristoff said that Krueger's proposed modifications for the bill would render it too narrow and added that the measure should provide protections for health care workers and prison guards who are potentially exposed to disease (Elkies, Island Heights Our Town, 10/24).