Governor Mulls Bill To Permit Routine HIV Testing in California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is considering legislation that would include HIV testing as part of a routine medical exam, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Under AB 682, by Assembly member Patty Berg (D-Eureka), patients age 13 to 64 would be tested for HIV unless they or their caretaker does not give verbal consent.
California law currently requires that patients provide written consent for an HIV test.
The bill follows recommendations by CDC last year to include HIV testing during routine medical visits, including an annual physical or a prescription refill.
California health officials estimate that about 40,000 Californians do not know they are infected with HIV.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the CDC estimates that 50% to 70% of new infections "occur via a person who doesn't know they are infected with HIV." He added that his coalition seeks to include routine HIV testing under other bundled services that insurers cover.
The California Medical Association supports the measure.
A spokesperson for Schwarzenegger said the governor has not decided whether to sign the legislation (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 9/26).
If Schwarzenegger signs AB 682, it "will be of particular significance in minority communities, where HIV infection is most prevalent," Timm Herdt, Sacramento bureau chief for the Ventura County Star, writes in his column. Advocates maintain that routine testing will be helpful to minorities because it will reduce the perceived stigma of having HIV tests "selectively targeted at them," according to Herdt.
Gary Puckrein, president of the National Minority Quality Forum, estimates that routine testing could cut new infection rates by half, Herdt writes.
"Schwarzenegger's signature could speed the day such a reduction is realized," according to Herdt (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 9/26).