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“Very Bad HIV Legislation in Illinois”

May 6th, 2007 · No Comments · Activism, Chicago, Health, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, Music, Politics

Illinois CapitolI got an email this week from my friend Justin Hayford, who works at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago when he’s not moonlighting as a cabaret crooner.

Justin had a lot to say about a couple of pending bills in the Illinois House of Representatives. I could spend a bunch of time trying to paraphrase what he said, but Justin’s an expert on these matters so I decided to cut out the middleman and just get his permission to quote the email here, which he kindly gave.

Passing the mike to Mr. Hayford (bold and italics emphasis his):

There are two very bad bills pending in the Illinois House of Representatives right now which would eliminate the need for doctors to get your consent before testing you for HIV. Under current Illinois law, a doctor must get your written, informed consent before ordering an HIV test. Last year the CDC put out recommendations that such consent should no longer be required. They argue that a general consent to medical care should be sufficient. We all want more people to be offered HIV testing, but to do so without getting their consent first is bad health care and bad public policy.

Imagine someone struggling with clinical depression who is suddenly told, “By the way, you’re HIV+.” Imagine a woman with an abusive husband who is told, “You were tested for HIV and you’re negative” — and the abusive husband beats her up, saying, “So you think I have AIDS? Is that why you got an HIV test?” Imagine a 15-year-old boy who tests positive, a result his father must be informed about, and that kid is kicked out of the house and ends up living on the streets. These are not hypothetical situations: these are scenarios I’ve seen played out again and again over 15 years working at the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago.

People say it’s always a good idea for people to know their HIV status. Is it better for a 15-year-old to know his status if it means he ends up on the streets, where he can’t access health care? Is it better for a woman to get her head put through a wall after learning she’s HIV negative? Is it better for a person with clinical depression to learn he has HIV when that information might cause his depression to spiral out of control? Will he even bother to get treatment?

Who knows what’s best for a particular person at a particular time? Each individual person. People should always have the right to decide for themselves if it’s the right time for an HIV test. To take away that right is to put certain patients in harm’s way.

It is our understanding that there is a lot of pressure on legislators to vote in favor of these bad bills. So please please please take 30 seconds and call your state representative to voice your opposition to House Bills 980 and 193. Leave a message that you believe everyone has to the right to make their own healthcare decisions.

If you aren’t sure who your representative is, just go to www.vote-smart.org.

Representatives take phone calls from constituents very seriously. So 10 phone calls is a landslide. Please call.

So, yeah. What Justin said.

UPDATE May 7: Follow-up from Justin: “We were able to work out a compromise, which now states that a doctor can’t test you without ‘documented informed consent.’ Not perfect, but better than what we were facing.”

… still probably a good idea to make sure your reps know how you feel about this issue.


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