Some Chicago HIV/AIDS Advocates Criticize CDC Recommendation To Make HIV Testing Routine
Some HIV/AIDS advocates in Chicago are criticizing CDC's proposal to make voluntary HIV testing routine, the Chicago Tribune reports. The agency's goal in proposing the new recommendations is to identify the estimated 250,000 people in the U.S. who do not know they are HIV-positive, according to the Tribune. Knowing their HIV status might allow people to receive treatment sooner and avoid spreading the virus to others, according to Tammy Nunnally, a CDC spokesperson. However, Ann Fisher, executive director of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, said that although she agrees with the agency's ultimate goal, she thinks the proposal is a "terrible" idea. "A diagnosis of HIV isn't routine, and we shouldn't be treating it like it is," Fisher said, adding, "This is something that changes people's lives, often very dramatically." She said people in Illinois who test HIV-positive cannot purchase health insurance from a company that sells individual medical policies. Fisher also said she disagreed with the proposal to eliminate a requirement for counseling sessions before testing because she said she believes it is important to discuss the implications of an HIV-positive diagnosis prior to testing. "That's the time when you want to be educating people and talking about prevention," she said. The voluntary CDC recommendations will not change current Illinois law, which requires both pre-test counseling and written informed consent, according to the Tribune. Rick Bejlovec, executive director of Chicago's Test Positive Aware Network, said CDC's proposal needs to be accompanied by a "push to put more money into [HIV/AIDS] education, prevention and improved (services)." David Munar, associate director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said that removing current recommendations to require informed-consent forms to be signed before testing could lead to people being tested without their knowledge. However, William Johnson, medical director of Chicago's Luck Care Center, said if CDC's proposed guidelines go into effect, they will help could help reduce the stigma surrounding the virus. Johnson said that when he offers patients HIV tests some of them ask, "Why me?" If CDC's proposal is implemented, "I'll just say it's a routine test and we offer it to all our patients," he said, adding, "It'll be easier for some people to accept" (Graham/Kotulak, Chicago Tribune, 5/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.