SENATOR FILES BILL TO MAKE HIV TESTING ROUTINE
|Houston Senator Rodney Ellis emphasizes the need for broader HIV testing in Texas.|
(AUSTIN) — A blood test for HIV would be part of a routine checkup for all Texans under a bill filed Tuesday. Houston Senator Rodney Ellis announced the filing of SB 877, which would require doctors to offer patients an HIV test. Ellis says this bill follows recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control in 2006, and will help slow the spread of the disease in Texas. "Thankfully HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is clear that early diagnosis is a key to fighting the disease and its spread," he said. "The sooner a person is made aware of their status, the sooner they will change their behavior, which will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others."
More than 62,000 Texans are HIV positive, a number that rose 30 percent between 2003 and 2007. A disproportionate number of these cases occur among African-Americans, more than four times the infection rate among whites. In Houston, the rate of infection among black males is one in 27, one of the highest rates in the U.S. Nationwide, Texas ranks fourth among states in the number of HIV cases.
While doctors would be required to offer it, patients would have the option to forgo the test. The cost of the test, which averages about $25, would be covered under the bill by existing health plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Texas already requires testing for ingoing and outgoing inmates in Texas prisons, and for pregnant women.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 18, 2009.