Sponsors of South Carolina Bill That Would Modify Regulations Concerning HIV-Positive Students Will Attempt To Override Veto
The sponsors of a South Carolina bill that would modify regulations concerning HIV-positive students in the state have said that they will attempt to override a recent veto by Gov. Mark Sanford (R) when the General Assembly meets later this month, the Columbia State reports (Smith, Columbia State, 6/13).
Sanford last week vetoed the bill, which was approved by the state House last month. The bill would require school nurses to inform the Department of Health and Environmental Control when any student in grades kindergarten through 12 has contact with another person's blood in order to determine if the student was exposed to bloodborne diseases such as HIV. Under the bill, DHEC would notify school nurses if a student involved in incidents such as fights or sports injuries had HIV, hepatitis or any other bloodborne disease and would advise about medical treatment. Clinics and doctors' offices would continue to inform DHEC of positive test results under the bill, which would stipulate that the names of students living with the diseases be known only to DHEC. Under current state law, school nurses and superintendants are notified by DHEC when they have HIV-positive students at their schools (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/12).
"In the interest of health and safety for all children, DHEC should continue to notify the proper school officials if a child has" HIV/AIDS, Sanford wrote in his veto message. He added, "If anything, we would take this law a step further by adding two other highly contagious bloodborne diseases -- hepatitis B as well as hepatitis C."
Rep. Bakari Sellers (D), who drafted the bill with Sen. Brad Hutto (D) and Rep. Kris Crawford (R), said that federal law prevents school nurses from sharing information about HIV-positive students with other staff, parents or students. "They can't do anything with the information," Sellers said, adding that the current notification system is useless. Sanford in his veto message acknowledged that the federal law prevents the information from being shared. "But I see no reason that state law should codify this misguided principle that is now, indeed, codified at the federal level of law."
Supporters of the measure have said that South Carolina's current law could discourage students from receiving HIV tests. HIV is "ravaging our communities, particularly African-American communities," Sellers said, adding, "We don't need barriers that prevent people from getting tested. We need to break down all the barriers we can." Bambi Gaddist, executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, said, "What we're talking about is violating someone's right to medical privacy based on their age and based on one health condition." She added, "The question is why do (school officials) need access to this information?" (Columbia State, 6/13).