Authored by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, AB 682 would mandate that patients between the ages of 13 and 64 would be tested for HIV, unless a legal guardian or caretaker did not give verbal consent.
California law currently requires that patients give written consent for the test to be administered. Under the new bill, patients would have to give written consent to decline the test.
The bill follows recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control to include routine HIV testing during general physical exams or routine doctor visits.
“I think it’s a great idea because it’ll normalize the testing of it. It’ll make everyone aware that HIV is out there and it’s something they need to be tested for,” Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Patric Hernandez-Kline told XBIZ.
“I think something like that will also increase the educational components that a lot of facilities don’t have in place. It’ll also help people that don’t have access to those kinds of tests, because the focus is usually on high-risk populations. There are areas that aren’t high-risk, but it’ll make an umbrella so we can see where everyone is at.”
Hernandez-Kline said that the downside of routine testing might lie in the fact that many medical clinics do not have the educational or clinical resources required to deal with a specialized area of healthcare like HIV and AIDS.
“Confidential testing is OK, but does every facility have in place their protocol to disclose positive results? Do they have the ability to treat patients? My answer to that is no, they don’t,” Hernandez-Kline said.
“HIV is such a specialized area of the healthcare system — a general practioner or pediatrician might not know how to approach a patient with that, much less the potential for positive results,” he said.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said the CDC estimates that 50-70 percent of new infections “occur via a person who doesn't know they are infected with HIV.”
Health officials in California estimate that 40,000 people in the state do not realize they are HIV positive.
Hernandez-Kline hopes that, if the bill is signed into law, it will allow greater access to education and a wider acceptance of HIV testing by the general population.
“Well, I don’t think people are even aware of the risks or how HIV is transmitted. When people don’t consider themselves in at-risk groups, the testing doesn’t work. But if you make it a standard screening, then I think that helps to get the education out there. Otherwise, I think there are people out there that would ignore it,” he said.
“There’s a tendency to focus on high-risk groups like sex workers or men that have sex with men, but I think I read recently that the fastest-growing [HIV positive] population right now is heterosexual women.”