Wednesday, May 2, 2012
New law aims to increase HIV/AIDS tests
New state law is removing a testing barrier for an infectious disease many people don't even know they have.
Signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday, "An Act Increasing Screening for HIV" deletes the requirement that patients provide written consent to have an HIV test. Instead, patients will need only to give verbal consent to have an HIV test.
Between 25,000 and 27,000 Massachusetts residents are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS, according to a news release from the Patrick administration. But about 21 percent of them — or more than one in five — don't realize they're infected, the release says, while citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"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, in a prepared statement.
Statistics from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Surveillance program showed that HIV/AIDS like many other chronic diseases has hit New Bedford particularly hard.
By the end of calendar year 2010, New Bedford's prevalence of HIV/AIDS was 487.8 per 100,000, compared with 273.7 across the state. New Bedford also had a higher average annual rate of HIV diagnoses from 2007-09 at 14.5 per 100,000 versus the state's rate of 9.4