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'AIDS: Package Response'

April 08, 1988

In response to your editorial "AIDS: Package Response" (March 26), the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality wishes to point out that the package of AIDS legislation supported by the California Medical Assn. is incomplete in more than one element and misdirected in another. To preface, however, it should be clear that we are grateful for the efforts of the CMA on a number of fronts, especially in the arena of discrimination, and work closely with the CMA governmental affairs staff in Sacramento.

The CMA is in support of SB 2851 which would relax restrictions on disclosure of HIV test results to health care workers. SB 2851 is one of a dozen bills that address the same subject. We are also in support of relaxing disclosure. However, another bill, AB 4438 by Assemblyman Terry Friedman (D-Tarzana), couples that issue with a provision that prohibits dumping patients on the basis of a patient's positive test. While the problem of dumping has not reached the catastrophic proportions experienced on the East Coast, California has witnessed its own incidents of patient dumping.

The CMA has not included in its package one of the most important bills of this session. AB 2950 by Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) would require that counseling be provided each time a test for evidence of HIV is administered. Public health experts across the nation agree that counseling is a vital component of the testing process.

The element that is misdirected is the CMA-sponsored bill SB 2788 by Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) which would permit physicians to inform the spouse, sexual or needle-sharing partner or county health officers of a patient's positive HIV test result without the patient's consent.

The bill will have the unfortunate effect of either creating an adversarial relationship between physician and patient, or frightening people away from voluntary counseling and testing.

California's program of voluntary anonymous or confidential testing is a model for the rest of the nation simply because Californians are less fearful to come forward for testing and counseling.

We are hopeful that the CMA and other organizations concerned about AIDS will embrace the approach that LIFE is advocating. We are in this epidemic for the long haul; the wrong turn at this point will have a disastrous effect on the ability of California and the nation to stop this ravaging disease.

RAND MARTIN

Executive Director, LIFE

Sacramento

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