New Mass. Law to Allow Verbal Consent for HIV Tests
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on April 26 signed a bill that abolished the need for written consent to an HIV test.
The measure, named "An Act to Increase Routine Screening of HIV," states that doctors will only need verbal consent from patients before they test them for the virus.
Barrett Klein, director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders’ AIDS Law Project, along with AIDS Action Committee President Rebecca Haag praised Senate President Therese Murray, state Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) and state Reps. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) and Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) and Patrick for their support of the bill.
"We hope to see an increase in testing and treatment now," said Klein in a press release. "We hope now, with the removal of the written consent requirement, the medical profession will step up and get the job done by offering an HIV test to all patients as public health authorities recommend."
While not a perfect solution, Haag told EDGE that the law is certainly a step in the right direction in the fight against AIDS in the commonwealth.
"This is significant progress," she said. "It’s a statement that resonates deeply with the LGBT community which usually defines their triumphs in the fight for equality through progress rather than instant success."
Haag stressed that the stigma surrounding HIV screenings that still exists in Massachusetts is fostered by, among other things, the extensive paperwork that doctors must fill out due to the written consent law. Some of these documents are as long as three pages.
"We are hopeful that since many physicians thought [written consent] was a barrier, we will see a rise in testing," said Haag. "We’ll see more doctors be willing to do the test. It gets rid of a lot of administrative processes, which gives more time for physicians to talk to their clients."