Why the Proposed Massachusetts HIV Testing Bill Is Bad for Patients

Paul E. Sax, M.D. comments:

As I’ve written about here multiple times, I’m not a big fan of the HIV testing law in our state.

First, there’s the requirement for written informed consent, something that every state (except a couple) has wisely abandoned. Second, it’s more than a testing law — it’s also an HIV privacy law, which is arguably unnecessary in this post HIPAA era and has all sorts of unintended consequences.

Last year, two bills were proposed — one simply removed the requirement for written consent, while the other replaced it with a requirement for verbal consent. The groups backing these respective bills (I was part of the former) didn’t work out a compromise, and so no bill was passed.

This year? Something very strange has happened. We have a bill pending “An Act to Increase routine screening for HIV” that would remove written consent but would also expand HIV-related privacy protections and mandate that primary care and ID providers “offer” HIV tests to their patients. The bill is working its way through government channels, on its way to being passed.

And you know what? I’m not aware of a single ID or HIV clinician who supports it.

This includes providers at hospitals, community-based clinics, group practices, and the largest medical practice in the state for gay and lesbian people. That’s right — most of the people dedicating their careers to HIV care don’t like it.

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