Connecticut Town Considers Mandatory HIV Testing of Paid Firefighters
A town in Connecticut has begun offering voluntary HIV testing for paid firefighters in the area and is considering making such tests mandatory, the New Haven Register reports. An unnamed firefighter's claim that he contracted HIV while working prompted the measures in the town -- the name of which is being withheld to protect the identity of the firefighter. Because the town's firefighters have been required since 1987 to be certified EMTs or paramedics, they are often at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens and body fluids, according to the town's fire chief. The town's fire department currently provides in-house infectious disease training and adheres to U.S. Department of Labor policies for protection from and disposal of potentially contaminated materials in order to reduce the risk of disease transmission, according to the Register. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, other firefighters have reported contracting HIV while on the job, including Stephen Derrig, an Ohio firefighter who publicized his HIV status in an attempt to convince the state Legislature to provide health care coverage for firefighters who contract infectious diseases while on the job. The Connecticut town is currently considering local legislation that would require HIV testing to be included in the annual physicals administered to all local, paid firefighters. "It's an expensive deal and we may not be able to afford something like that," the first selectman of the town said. The recent round of HIV tests for the firefighters who worked closest with the HIV-positive firefighter cost approximately $4,000, according to the fire chief. Even if the town approved the legislation to require mandatory HIV testing, the plan would not take effect until 2004 because the town has already approved the budget for 2003, according to the Register (Yaremich, New Haven Register, 2/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.