Groups Raise Concerns About Routine HIV Testing
Some HIV/AIDS and civil rights advocates and politicians are expressing concerns that CDC's expected recommendation to include HIV testing as part of routine medical screenings might infringe on individual rights and attach a "damaging stigma" to patients while "failing to ensure" they are treated, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, some HIV/AIDS advocates worry that because the "push for routine testing comes on the heels" of new laws that require names-based reporting of new HIV cases, routine HIV testing could "be a tool for government surveillance." HIV/AIDS advocates also have expressed concern that people who test HIV-positive will not be able to receive treatment because of waiting lists for many states' AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals.
Action is being taken on national, state and city levels to address the concerns, the Journal reports.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is seeking to include routine testing language in the pending reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, but aides working with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have "vow[ed] to prevent" the proposed measure from superseding state regulations and tying federal funds to implementation of routine testing, according to the Journal.
However, according to Capitol Hill staffers close to Kennedy, they are open to a compromise that would authorize incentive funding for states to adopt CDC's expected testing recommendations. Some "compromise seekers" are seeking "hard to find middle ground," the Journal reports.
For example, California Assembly member Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill that would allow clinics to shorten pretest counseling for people who regularly seek HIV tests on an individual basis.
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and HIV/AIDS and gay-rights advocates for his support of routine testing and shorter counseling and consent procedures. The ACLU on its Web site posted a "lengthy rebuttal" of Frieden's views, which it classified as a method of outreach to discover and collect data on HIV-positive people, the Journal reports.
A CDC spokesperson said that the center is proceeding with the formal process of revising routine HIV testing draft guidelines for publication in August or September, adding it is "premature" for the agency to comment publicly on the recommendations (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/5).