Massachusetts Lawmakers Should Require HIV Testing of Rape Suspects To Ease Fear, Uncertainty of Survivors, Editorial Says
Massachusetts lawmakers should require that suspected perpetrators of rape or sexual assault be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases "to reduce some of the fear and uncertainty that victims face and to assist them in making critical medical-care choices," a Boston Globe editorial says (Boston Globe, 1/11). Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on Thursday filed a bill that would require "on-demand" HIV testing for suspects accused of rape or sexual assault if the survivor requests it. The bill would allow a survivor to request the test if the alleged assailant has been indicted for or formally charged with the crime. The bill also would require the Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance to include a proposal for maintaining the confidentiality of testing information. Survivors of sexual assault currently can choose to undergo a monthlong treatment of three drugs used to prevent HIV transmission. However, many survivors decline the treatment because of the possibility that side effects could be severe. Some doctors say an HIV-positive test result for alleged assailants might encourage survivors to complete the treatment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/6). The editorial adds that a positive test result also could make the suspect begin an HIV/AIDS treatment regimen (Boston Globe, 1/11). Some opponents say that, if passed, this bill would take away suspects' privacy rights, while doing little to provide useful information to rape and sexual assault survivors, in part because survivors only have 72 hours in which to begin a course of treatment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/6). The editorial acknowledges the constraints of the bill, but concludes, "The price of forcing a test on a suspect who is still presumed innocent is high, but the well-being of the victim takes precedence" (Boston Globe, 1/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.