On July 7th, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett signed 46 new measures into law. They cover a wide range of things, but the one new law that I feel deserves special attention is Act 59 (formerly SB 260). This law incorporates HIV testing into routine medical care and corresponds with recommendations by the CDC. This new law will have a significant impact on HIV awareness and prevention by proactively giving people an opportunity to find out their status as part of their regular health checkups.
Prior to the law being passed primary care physicians could pro-actively offer HIV testing but the patient had to provide written consent before the test could be administered. The doctor also had to provide pre and post-test counseling. The new law incorporates HIV testing into standard testing and will require a patient to provide consent should they choose to opt out of testing. The pre-testing requirement has also been removed. The legislation originally passed the Senate back in April and the House passed it in June.
Incorporating HIV testing into routine care has tremendous benefits to the welfare of Pennsylvania’s residents. Early detection and treatment of HIV is vital towards reducing the impact of the virus in an infected person. It also reduces the risk of spreading the infection to others.
“According to a study done in 2008 and published in The Lancet, a 20 year old who is diagnosed with and starts immediate treatment of HIV has a life expectancy of an additional 49 years. Comparatively a person who doesn’t start treatment until they are already diagnosed with full blown AIDS will usually have ten fewer years than someone who started treatment when they had a CD4 count above 200. According to an international study done by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases a person who is HIV positive and being treated is 96% LESS likely to pass on the infection.”
The American Academy of HIV Medicine and the Pennsylvania Medical Association have both released statements applauding the Pennsylvania government for this policy change. Similar legislation was passed into law in New York.
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