Last month, the Illinois House and Senate unanimously approved a billeliminating a state requirement that people receiving HIV tests provide written consent prior to undergoing the test. The bill is in keeping with Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest revision of its guidelines recommending an “opt-out” approach where HIV test would be handled as a routine test. However, if an individual objects, the test will not be administered.
Over two decades ago when standards and policies were crafted concerning HIV testing, activists argued that HIV was not like cancer or other sexually transmitted infections. Because of the stigma associated with the disease, discrimination against those infected and the lack of effective treatment options, the additional measure of written needed to be implemented. It protected a fearful public against being tested without approval or knowledge. The regulation also ensured that individuals would be given information helpful in facing the disease and accessing support.
Today the CDC and some public health advocates hold that costly written consent procedures serve as a barrier to testing for both patients and doctors. They argue that the “opt-out” approach creates a burden of saying “no” to the test which may increase the number of people tested. Does the process of written consent discourage patients from getting tested? Is written consent an unnecessary and excessive burden that keeps medical professionals from offering the test? Should public health out way civil liberties?
Does the stigma attached to HIV still justify the expense of written consent? Have advances in treatment of the disease made special measures around tested be reconsidered? Are the risks associated with HIV testing widely understood?
Join us this week to share your thoughts about HIV screening.
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.