Science Becomes Policy. A New Trend?

Both the Washington Post  and the New York Times headline with news that the CDC is recommending routine testing for the HIV virus. David Brown from the Wasington Post ledes with

All adolescents and adults should routinely be tested for HIV infection in hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, the federal government said yesterday, signaling a radical shift in the public health approach to the 25-year-old epidemic.

Under the new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients would no longer have to sign a consent form and get extensive pre-test counseling. But they would have to be told they were being tested for the AIDS virus, asked if they have any questions and given the opportunity to “opt out.”

This would mean testing for all individuals between 13 and 64 years old. I’m not sure I understand the upper limit on the cut off due to the risks of sexually transmitted diseases in the elderly, but the CDC probably had it’s reasons. 

This is a major shift in policy and as far as I know the US is the first country to do this.  It will still take several years for this policy to filter down through the highways and byways of the American legal system but it’s a start. And speaking of the legal system, according to the NYT, the ACLU has come down against the measure.

Rose A. Saxe, a staff lawyer with the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said her group opposed the recommendation because it would remove the requirement for signed consent forms and pretest counseling. In settings like emergency rooms where doctors are strapped for time, Ms. Saxe said, “we’re concerned that what the C.D.C. calls routine testing will become mandatory testing.”

Patients, particularly teenagers, she said, “will be tested without an opportunity for understanding the magnitude of having a positive result.” 

I’d have to break with the ACLU on this issue because ignorance in this case is not bliss, it’s deadly. Again from the WP

The benefits of knowing — and the hazards of not knowing — one’s HIV status are clear from studies. Between 54 and 70 percent of sexually transmitted cases of HIV are transmitted by people who do not know they are infected with the virus. [my emphasis] 

With an administration that seems increasingly unfriendly towards science, the move by the CDC will send the Religious Right through the roof. This seems to be is a major shift towards science out of step with the rest of the US government. And that in an election year! What were they smoking?

HIV/AIDS deniers have just suffered a major blow. Keep your eyes on Tara Smith’s blog for her take on this. She’s my one-stop reading place for the arguments from HIV/AIDS deniers.

 For once studies not scriptures seem to have carried the day. Will wonders never cease?

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1 comment so far

  1. […] Last week I got grumpy about the ACLU having issues with a general policy for testing for HIV. I’m sure you remember the amazingly arsine quote from the ACLU lawyer Patients, particularly teenagers, she said, “will be tested without an opportunity for understanding the magnitude of having a positive result.” [like spreading AIDs?] […]


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