A bill that would make it much easier for doctors to test patients for the HIV virus made its way through a Florida Senate Committee on Wednesday.
The measure (SB 512) is sponsored by Orlando Democrat Geraldine Thompson. She said it would eliminate paperwork that “burdens doctors” when they test in a health screening, such as for glucose or diabetes. The patient would have the prerogative to opt out if they did not want to be tested.
The Florida Hospital Association and representatives from other health organizations announced their support of the bill, but not everybody was down with it.
South Florida AIDS activist Michael Rajner said he hoped that there could be amendments added to the relatively straight forward written bill, mentioning a number of negative scenarios that he said could result from its passage.
Those concerns included further criminalizing the spread of HIV, and the fact that homophobia exists in the medical world.
“I also have concerns, as a gay man, I have to acknowledge that HIV/AIDS has devastated the LGBT community, since the advent of marriage equality, we’ve seen a rise in homophobia,” Rajner said. “That even happens in medical settings.”
He said he was worried that some doctors aren’t properly trained and said that could result in worsening somebody who has the virus.
But Democratic Senator Chris Smith said that while he appreciated Rajner’s concerns, he said the bill had nothing to do with the criminalization of HIV transmission.
“This touches on informed consent,” Smith said. “We need to try to turn that corner, we need to de-stigmatize the issue.I think that’s what this bill tries to do.”
The bill then passed unanimously in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. A similar bill is being sponsored in the House by Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila. It’s already passed through two committees, and he’s said he expects it will soon go to the House floor for a vote.