26 December 2007

Freedoms Eroding in HIV Testing Decision


Yes, they say women can "opt out" of prenatal HIV testing in New Jersey. Um, just like I "opted out" of the testing when it was requested WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. Just a tiny checkmark in the corner of my bloodwork sheet that I *happened* to see. I was peeved. I very nearly got tested without consent.

You have to know what they're testing you for. Then you have to know that you CAN opt out. Then you have to resist medical pressure to submit to testing (subtle force if this is the only OB doctor on your insurance plan, and you don't want to anger her, etc.). Then you have to know HOW to opt out.

Let's think about this. Suppose you're an 18-year-old, newly pregnant and not very educated in the ways of the world. Think you have all the information needed to make the right decision? In addition to telling moms that HIV testing may save their children from contracting the disease if proper care is followed (notice the MAY and IF in the sentence??), I'd like them to produce a sheet about the effects of a positive HIV test on obtaining insurance and a job. They should also inform the potential test-ee that any positive result is given to the county health department and probably a bunch of other people.

I'm all for VOLUNTARY testing. Voluntary is, to my mind, when you're presented with a big bunch of options and you choose the ones you feel like you want to have. No arm-squeezing and certainly no little boxes checked on blood testing forms without informed consent.

All this money going out on the part of insurance companies for mandated testing. And for what benefit? New Jersey stats from the article:

"The state has about 115,000 births per year and had seven infants born with HIV in 2005, according to state health department officials."

Yep. And how many of those seven children had mothers with NO prenatal care in the first place? You just have to wonder.

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