New HIV Law in PA

What is it and how could it affect you?

Last month, Gov. Tom Corbett signed several revisions to Act. 148: The Confidentiality of HIV-Related Information Act into law. The changes will take effect Sept. 6 to ease restrictions on HIV testing, the Mazzoni Center in Philly reports, requiring patients to “opt out” rather than “opt in” for testing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s estimated that 25 percent of 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. do not know they’re infected. And more than half of new infections arise from people who don’t know their HIV status.

The new guidelines are aimed at reducing the number of people who don’t know they’re positive. The CDC says that high-risk behaviors are noticeably lower – 68 percent lower – for people who know their status. That’s why the CDC called for broader adoption of testing for Americans between the ages of 13 and 65. The group urges that HIV be including within regular screenings for diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure. Until now healthcare providers like Mazzoni Center in Pennsylvania have been restricted by the state’s legal requirement of pre-test counseling, written consent and in-person, post-test counseling regardless of the results.

But the new law drops these requirements, saying that a medical provider needs to only document a patient’s consent (or refusal) to be tested for HIV. And while testing remain voluntary, it simply requires someone to “opt out” to refuse the test. Otherwise everyone will be tested and the results will be reported to each person. New Jersey has been using this model to much success.

Mazzoni says that the new law will not change the way it tests patients for HIV. “Our core messages and our commitment to educating our patients about the importance of getting tested and staying healthy remains very much the same,” according to a statement. “We are hopeful that a thoughtful implementation of the revisions to Act 148 will help reduce the number of unknown positives, and by extension help reduce the incidence of HIV – a clear win for us all.”