Illinois State Rep. Introduces Bill That Would Include HIV Testing in Routine Physicals for Students
Illinois Rep. Mary Flowers (D) has introduced a bill (HB 0193) that would include HIV testing in routine physical examinations that Illinois students take before entering school, the Chicago Tribune reports. Under the bill, students would be tested for HIV during school physical exams when they typically receive tuberculosis tests and vaccinations. Parents would be allowed to opt their children out of the HIV test (Chicago Tribune, 1/23). Students in Illinois usually receive physical exams before entering kindergarten and the fifth and ninth grades. Under the bill, test results would remain confidential and school files would indicate if students have taken an HIV test. Cost of the tests could range from $5 to $95, depending on the type of test and insurance coverage, according to the Chicago Daily Herald (Ellis, Chicago Daily Herald, 1/23). Flowers said the purpose of the measure is to give more parents the choice to have their children tested. According to Flowers, because HIV can be transmitted vertically, through sex or through a blood transfusion, it is important for parents to know their children's HIV status for treatment purposes (Chicago Tribune, 1/23). According to a report released by the Illinois Department of Public Health last month, 252 children under age 12 and 552 children between ages 13 and 19 are living with HIV in the state (Chicago Daily Herald, 1/23). HIV is "no longer a death sentence," Flowers said, adding, "You can live with it and not die from it, but lack of knowledge will cause you to die from it." Flowers last year sponsored a bill, which became law, that requires HIV testing among infants if their mother's HIV status is unknown, according to the Tribune (Chicago Tribune, 1/23).
Although the AIDS Foundation of Chicago generally supports HIV/AIDS education efforts, spokesperson John Peller said that the group has some concerns about the bill, including if parents will feel pressure to agree to the test. He added that the group also is concerned about the ability of teenagers to decline the tests. Although a standard consent law allows people over age 12 to receive tests for sexually transmitted infections without permission, Flowers' bill would let parents decide, the Daily Herald reports. Edward Pont, president of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that he has concerns about testing children under age 13, which is the youngest age recommended by CDC. "I don't think we've completely closed the door" on Flowers' bill, Pont said, adding, "We're in favor of good quality education. The spirit of (Flowers') bill is headed in that direction. ... But I don't think we're quite where she is yet" (Chicago Daily Herald, 1/23).