Illinois Bill That Would Remove Written Consent Requirement for HIV Tests Could Bring ‘Dire Consequences,’ Editorial Says
Although "[n]early everyone agrees more voluntary HIV testing is a good thing," an Illinois House bill (HB 980) that would eliminate the requirement that people receiving HIV tests provide written consent prior to undergoing the test has the "potential to do more harm than good," a Chicago Sun-Times editorial says (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/3). The Illinois bill would enact recommendations released last year by CDC, which say that HIV tests should be part of routine medical care for people ages 13 to 64 and that requirements for written consent and pretest counseling should be dropped. The measure also would rescind part of the state's AIDS Confidentiality Act, which was passed in the 1980s and states people cannot be tested for HIV without their knowledge.
Advocates from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago are opposed to the bill and have said that counseling still should be available before and after testing to ensure people understand the results and have access to treatment, if necessary. Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health after hearing the concerns raised by HIV/AIDS advocates said they would work with state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D), the bill's sponsor, to add language to the bill that would clarify the need for pre- and post-test counseling and verbal consent prior to testing (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/1).
Although CDC's recommendations "seems to be a good way" to expand HIV testing, HIV is "anything but a routine disease," the editorial says. It adds that "dire consequences" can come from administering HIV tests to people who are unaware they do not have to receive it, are not informed about HIV and how to prevent it, or do not have a support system, the editorial adds. Ford and other proponents of the Illinois bill have said they are "flexible on the matter of signed consent and counseling," the editorial says, concluding that the "best medicine here would be a compromise by the CDC that preserves a system proven to work well" (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/3).