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Gov Patrick Signs Bill to Increase Access to HIV Screening


BOSTON – Friday, April 27, 2012 – Governor Deval Patrick today signed S.2158, “An Act Increasing Screening For HIV,” which removes barriers for patients to get HIV screening, while maintaining all confidentiality protections.

Increasing Screening for HIV
Governor Patrick is joined by legislators and supporters while signing S.2158 “An Act Increasing Screening For HIV.” (Photo credit: Meghan Dhaliwal / Governor’s Office). View additional photos.

“This bill will lead to more lives being saved,” said Governor Patrick. “By removing barriers to screening, we will continue to decrease rates of HIV in our communities.” 

S.2158 removes the requirement that patients give written consent for HIV tests, and instead requires only verbal consent. This will result in more instances of HIV being screened and detected early enough for life saving treatments to be provided.

The product of several years of work amongst the HIV advocacy community, clinicians, service providers and others, this bill removes what physicians describe as a barrier to HIV screening: written consent. Removing this requirement puts Massachusetts in line with the majority of other jurisdictions. 

“This is an important step forward in getting more people tested for HIV in the Commonwealth, which is critical to stopping the spread of HIV,” said Rebecca Haag, President & CEO of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. “We thank Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Governor Patrick for their leadership and support on this issue. There are an estimated 25,000 to 27,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts, but approximately 21 percent of them are unaware that they are HIV positive according to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The first step is learning your status. The next steps are getting connected with care and treatment, fighting the stigma that is still attached to HIV/AIDS in many communities; and shoring up resources for those infected, affected, and at risk for HIV.”

“The March of Dimes is pleased that the Commonwealth has taken an important step to making HIV testing a more routine part of medical care,” said Ed Doherty, the Massachusetts State Director of March of Dimes. “Given the advances in HIV prevention for pregnant women and newborns, early identification and individualized treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women is the best way to prevent pediatric HIV disease and maximize maternal health.”

The bill will allow more comprehensive and accurate information to reach the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, improving its ability to survey and address HIV cases in Massachusetts. These changes do not affect any of the confidentiality protections surrounding HIV testing and diagnosis.