Rhode Island House Committee holds hearing on bill that would eliminate written consent requirement for HIV testing

November 20, 2015

Under current state law, the written consent requirement does not apply to pregnant women, who are tested for HIV unless they sign a form to opt out of the test. The amendment, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Joseph McNamara (D) and Donna Walsh (D), would extend HIV testing to everyone except those who sign a form to opt out of the testing.

According to the Journal, the Rhode Island medical community widely supports the proposed amendment, while the American Civil Liberties Union Rhode Island opposes it. Nicole Alexander, a pediatric medicine fellow at Brown University, at the hearing noted that physicians still would be required to discuss HIV testing with patients before administering a test under the amendment. Brian Alverson, a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital, said HIV testing among pregnant women increased from 52% to 92% when the written consent requirement was waived. Alverson added that the increased testing allowed HIV-positive women to receive treatment earlier and reduced the number of mother-to-child HIV transmissions. The Rhode Island ACLU affiliate said the amendment would make it easier for physicians to administer HIV tests without informing patients.

According to the Journal, about 150 people are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS annually in the state (Dujardin, Providence Journal, 3/28).

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