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AIDS Action Committee Testifies to Protect the Privacy of People Seeking Healthcare in Massachusetts
Date:9/26/2007

BOSTON, Sep. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) today presented written and oral testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Health on a variety of bills having to do with privacy, informed consent and mandatory testing.

Rebecca Haag, Executive Director, AAC, testified in support of H2276, the Public Health Privacy Act, urging the committee to report it out favorably.

"H2276 balances the public health system's interest in obtaining health information for the purpose of disease control and prevention with the public's interest in protecting the privacy of their personal health information," she said. Her testimony also pointed to the thousands of people in the past year alone whose personal medical information was improperly disclosed.

Denise McWilliams, Esq., Director of Public Policy and Legal Affairs, AAC, testified in opposition to H2209, which seeks to repeal M.G.L. Ch. 111, 70F. 70F states that: 1) an HIV test can only be performed after the subject gives written informed consent to the test, and 2) neither results of the test nor the identity of the person being tested can be released without written informed consent.

"Massachusetts has seen a 37 percent reduction in new [HIV] cases from 1999 to 2005, from 1321 to 875.")," said McWilliams, indicating that the HIV testing program in Massachusetts is successful, provides confidentiality and should not be changed.

"A recent study by the National Behavioral Surveillance found that of the top four reasons people engaging in high risk behavior gave for not getting tested [for HIV], three of them had to do with fears around confidentiality," she added.

As part of the Massachusetts AIDS Policy Task Force, AIDS Action also strongly opposes H2102, which would mandate HIV testing of convicted sexual offenders, especially because it would likely further traumatize survivors of sexual assault, harm the public health and possibly undermine a sexual assault survivor's recovery rather than accomplish its goal of giving pertinent information and peace of mind to survivors of sexual assault. The average amount of time from arrest to conviction in sexual assault cases is 12 to 18 months, while post exposure prophylaxis, which would be administered to someone potentially exposed to HIV, must be administered within 72 hours of the exposure at the very latest to be effective.

Also as part of the Massachusetts AIDS Policy Task Force, AAC opposes a set of proposed bills that compel HIV testing and disclosure of HIV test results in certain circumstances. The proposed bills would allow any public safety official or health care provider to compel certain individuals to submit to an HIV and hepatitis B and C test if they believe the official or provider believes that he or she has been exposed to blood or other 'bodily fluids' of certain persons in the course of their duties. The proposed bill numbers that AAC opposes in this set are H2111, H2273, H3746 and S1215.

Contact: Diego Sanchez, APR dsanchez@aac.org

617-450-1524 or 617-835-1455 or

Paul Twitchell, ptwitchell@aac.org

617-450-1215


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SOURCE AIDS Action Committee
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