New HIV Testing Law To Take Effect July 26, 2012
Governor, Senate President, House Speaker and Lawmakers praise new law—which is expected to make impact in reducing HIV transmission and improving health outcomes
BOSTON July 19, 2012—On Thursday, July 26, 2012, the state’s new HIV testing law will take effect. The law will modernize the Commonwealth’s HIV testing laws by replacing the need for written consent before an HIV test can be administered with verbal consent.
“This new law will lead to more lives being saved,” said Gov. Deval Patrick, who signed the bill into law April 27 in a ceremony attended by administration officials, lawmakers, and HIV advocates. “By removing barriers to screening, we will continue to decrease rates of HIV in our communities.”
“While we have made great progress reducing the HIV infection rate in Massachusetts, it is important that we continue to take action to reverse the spread of the HIV virus,” Senate President Therese Murray said. “There are thousands of Massachusetts residents who are unaware that they are living with HIV and by providing increased access to routine screening, more patients will be encouraged to seek care and stop further transmission.”
“This common-sense improvement shows that the Commonwealth is a national leader in making health care more accessible,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “As we continue to combat HIV transmission and the spread of other diseases, this new law is yet another step towards improving care quality and efficiency in health care in the Commonwealth.”
“AIDS Action Committee has long supported expanded HIV testing in Massachusetts, and this bill will help make that happen. We cannot end the AIDS epidemic in Massachusetts if those who are HIV positive are unaware of their status,” said Rebecca Haag, President & CEO of AIDS Action Committee. “Increased HIV testing will help get those infected into care and treatment earlier and will result in better health outcomes and lower health care costs for those who are living with HIV.”
“This new law balances privacy concerns with the need to streamline the testing process in an effort to get more people tested,” state Senator Patricia Jehlen said. “I am very grateful to all of the advocates and doctors who came together to work hard on forging a bill that have enabled us to remove the requirement for written consent for an HIV test.”
“I am happy that this law is going into effect because it will allow great accessibility to HIV testing for Massachusetts residents,” said Representative Carl Sciortino. “The HIV/AIDS crisis is not over and while we in Massachusetts have been successful in keeping our infection levels down recently compared to other places, our work is not over and we still need to give providers the means to test and combat HIV.”
“Although investments in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services have achieved a 54 percent reduction in new HIV infections since 1999, there are still people whose care may be delayed because they are unaware of their status,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “The modernization of this 26 year-old law removes barriers to testing and treats HIV/AIDS like other infectious diseases by allowing patients to provide verbal consent for testing.”
There are an estimated 26,000 to 28,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts, but approximately 21% of them are unaware that they are HIV positive, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
Increased HIV testing will help get those who are HIV positive into care and treatment earlier and will result in better health outcomes and lower health care treatment costs. Earlier testing for HIV will also help prevent the spread of new infections since those who know their status and are in treatment are much less likely to transmit the virus to others.
Massachusetts has long been a national leader in the fight against AIDS. New diagnoses of HIV have declined by 54% since 1999 which will result in $2B savings in health care costs.
“Now that the challenge of expanding HIV testing is behind us, we need to work together with the medical and public health communities to find a way to reduce ongoing stigma related to HIV and AIDS,” said Haag. “We also need to ensure that all relevant medical information is securely in the hands of physicians who need it. And as we continue to move toward universal electronic medical records, we need to find ways to address patient concerns about confidentiality and ensure their full participation in the process.”
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is the state’s leading provider of prevention and wellness services for people vulnerable to HIV infection. It provides services to one in six people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis. These services include HIV counseling and testing; needle exchange; mental health counseling; housing assistance; and legal services. AIDS Action works to prevent new HIV infections, support those affected by HIV, and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS by educating the public and health professionals about HIV prevention and care; and advocating for fair and effective HIV/AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. Learn more at www.aac.org.