Wall Street Journal Examines HIV/AIDS Advocates’ Concerns About Routine HIV Testing
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined growing concerns among some HIV/AIDS and civil rights advocates and politicians that CDC's expected recommendation to include HIV testing as part of routine medical screenings might infringe on individual rights and attach a "damaging stigma" to patients while "failing to ensure" they are treated. According to the Journal, some HIV/AIDS advocates worry that because the "push for routine testing comes on the heels" of new laws that require names-based reporting of new HIV cases, routine HIV testing could "be a tool for government surveillance." HIV/AIDS advocates also have expressed concern that people who test HIV-positive will not be able to receive treatment because of waiting lists for many states' AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals, according to the Journal.
State, National Actions
Action is being taken on national, state and city levels to address the concerns, the Journal reports. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is seeking to include routine testing language in the pending reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, but aides working with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have "vow[ed] to prevent" the proposed measure from superseding state regulations and tying federal funds to implementation of routine testing, according to the Journal. However, according to Capitol Hill staffers close to Kennedy, they are open to a compromise that would authorize incentive funding for states to adopt CDC's expected testing recommendations. San Francisco City Supervisor Fiona Ma has "pushed through emergency legislation" to keep in place state laws that require written informed consent for HIV tests, the Journal reports. Some "compromise seekers" are seeking "hard to find middle ground," the Journal reports. For example, California Assembly member Mark Leno (D) has introduced a bill that would allow clinics to shorten pretest counseling for people who regularly seek HIV tests on an individual basis, according to the Journal. New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and HIV/AIDS and gay-rights advocates for his support of routine testing and shorter counseling and consent procedures. The ACLU on its Web site posted a "lengthy rebuttal" of Frieden's views, which it classified as a method of outreach to discover and collect data on HIV-positive people, the Journal reports. A CDC spokesperson said that the center is proceeding with the formal process of revising routine HIV testing draft guidelines for publication in August or September, adding it is "premature" for the agency to comment publicly on the recommendations (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/5).