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CALIFORNIA BILL TO STREAMLINE HIV TEST COUNSELING AND TREAT STDS PASSES
 
 
  OIA Newswire
 
Assemblyman Mark Leno's AB 2280, which would allow physicians to provide a patient diagnosed with gonorrhea with additional antibiotic drugs for their sex partner who may be unlikely to seek treatment, was passed by the State Assembly in a concurrence vote and is headed to the Governor's desk for his signature.
 
The measure was originally introduced to require the California Department of Health Services (DHS) to update HIV test counseling with a streamlined testing process. It was amended when Leno, DHS and stakeholders agreed to pilot an HIV counseling model at five locations across California that will institute many of the innovations originally suggested in the measure.
 
"AB 2280 prompted a discussion among key stakeholders and a new HIV test counseling model will be piloted that streamlines the testing process and targets those who can benefit most from one-on-one counseling," said Leno. "I am hopeful that we can increase the number of people tested when a streamlined HIV test counseling process is rolled out statewide in July 2007."
 
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the sponsor of AB 2280 and is the nation's largest HIV/AIDS organization operating free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. "The vast majority of people who test positive for HIV take steps to prevent its spread to others. More testing is our most effective prevention strategy," said Michael Weinstein, the organization's president. "We are pleased that the Office of AIDS will be piloting cost-saving innovations like video presentations, group and couples counseling, and other changes that will speed the process and enable more people to be tested for HIV."
 
The state currently spends $8.1 million on anonymous and confidential HIV testing of 150,000 individuals every year. However, a large portion of that funding pays for one-on-one HIV test counseling for people at low risk of contracting HIV. Leno sought to streamline the testing process and focus one-on-one HIV counseling on those at greatest risk such as those reporting unprotected sex, use of crystal methamphetamine, or injection drug use.
 
AB 2280's HIV test counseling reforms received strong bipartisan support and spurred the Department of Health Services to hold a stakeholder meeting with local health officials and HIV/AIDS service providers. The Department subsequently pledged to pilot the innovations at five urban and rural test sites around the state. Since the administrative action is already well underway, Leno deleted the bill's HIV provisions.
 
The remaining provisions of AB 2280 maintain the measure's spirit and intent to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Specifically, the bill will allow physicians to provide a patient diagnosed with gonorrhea with additional antibiotic drugs to be delivered to their sex partner or partners who may be unlikely to seek treatment. Patient-delivered therapy for gonorrhea has been recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
 
"Gonorrhea is one of the most common STDs with over 34,000 reported infections in California last year," said Leno. "This measure will allow patients to deliver antibiotics to partners unlikely to seek treatment on their own. It will also prevent repeat infections and reduce treatment costs." [8/31/06]
 
 
 
 
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