South Carolina Legislature Should Override Governor’s Veto of Bill That Would Modify Policies Concerning HIV-Positive Students, Editorial Says
The "argument for notifying school nurses and superintendants when a student tests positive for HIV is that they need to be able to send students who come into contact" with HIV-positive students' blood "to the hospital for immediate treatment," a Columbia State editorial says. This current policy "might make sense if" the state's "notification system were foolproof, or even close to it," the editorial says, adding, "It's not. It only works if an HIV-positive student has been tested." According to the editorial, some "students refuse to get tested because of the notification law," and people can live with the virus "for years before they suspect it" (Columbia State, 6/25).
Under current state law, school nurses and superintendants are notified by the Department of Health and Environmental Control when they have HIV-positive students at their schools. However, a bill that was vetoed by Gov. Mark Sanford (R) earlier this month would require school nurses to inform DHEC 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. Sponsors of the bill have said they will attempt to override the veto (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/16).
The "main thing" the current law does is give school officials a "false sense of security," the editorial says, adding, "If the state doesn't tell them a student" is HIV-positive, they "can assume she is not." That is a "potentially deadly assumption, one that no responsible medical official would never make," according to the editorial. The editorial says that the "responsible course is to use universal health precautions and treat all blood" as potentially positive for HIV.
"Wiping the law off the books would wipe away that false sense of security and increase the chance that school officials will treat any blood contact, be it from fights or athletic accidents, as potentially deadly," the editorial says, adding, "It also would reduce the chance of running afoul of a ridiculous federal privacy law, which prohibits school officials from sharing medical information with principals, teachers, parents -- anyone."
Although the Legislature did not repeal the current state law, the new bill "is a tiny step in the right direction," according to the editorial. "Legislators should overturn Mr. Sanford's veto," the editorial says, concluding, "Then next year, they should finish the job, by repealing the law that sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but under the circumstances makes none whatsoever" (Columbia State, 6/25).