Tuesday, July 24, 2007

HB 1898 AIDS Testing Certain Inmates

This bill was heard today, Tuesday July 24th, in House Health. This is an important bill with implications for our state.

NASW-NC does not support mandatory testing for HIV/AIDS. While NASW-NC does support as many of those infected with HIV/AIDS as possible to get tested and treated if necessary, there is a reality that the infrastructure of treatment services in NC is woefully short.

This bill would mandate testing of all persons discharged from the Department of Corrections. The price tag, according to DHHS, would be $200,000. Those infected would be referred to Department of Public Health for counseling.

Counseling, in this context, does not imply treatment. As stated by DHHS today, there would be referrals to community based organizations to help those in need of treatment receive services.

This is troubling indeed. With NC's AIDS Drug Assistance Program being near the bottom in the Nation, where are folks to go? This social worker has direct service experience in HIV/AIDS. From experience, services are good in some areas with great organizations. In others, almost non existent.

NASW-NC participates in the coalition NC AIDS Action Network.

The bill has good intent in terms of letting citizens get tested for HIV/AIDS. However, without infrastructure to assist in the long term it is hallow indeed.

Another implication brought forward today was the liability for the state. What happens when someone enters DOC negative and leaves positive? Does the state have any liability? That question raises many ethical concerns that will surely follow the debate of the bill.

The bill still has a journey. While being voted through the committee it is now on its way to House Judiciary II and then Appropriations.

NASW-NC will continue to follow the bill's progress and report.

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