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Massachusetts Medical Students in Favor of Opt Out HIV Screenings

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Student National Medical Association Region VII 5113 Georgia Ave, NW Washington, DC 20011 December 1, 2011 The Honorable John Kerry One Bowdoin Square 
 Tenth Floor 
 Boston, MA 02114 Senator Kerry: This letter comes to you on behalf of the Student National Medical Association’s Region VII, which includes medical and premedical students from Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine among others outside of Massachusetts. The Student National Medical Association is the nation's oldest and largest student organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color. We are concerned about Massachusetts’ current HIV testing regulations and the failure of Massachusetts to join 34 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting the Center for Disease Control’s 2006 recommendation for “opt-out” HIV screening. In honor of World AIDS Day on December 1, 2011, we collected signatures from your constituents who believe that “opt-out” screening would be in the best interest of the citizens of Massachusetts. The CDC has stated that: • HIV screening is recommended for patients in all health-care settings after the patient is notified that testing will be performed unless the patient declines (opt-out screening). • Separate written consent for HIV testing should not be required; general consent for medical care should be considered sufficient to encompass consent for HIV testing. The rationale for these recommendations includes: • Other similar screening strategies have drastically lowered the incidence of HIV transmission through blood transfusions and via perinatal infection. • Persons with HIV often visit health care settings for years before being tested. • When HIV is diagnosed and treated early, health outcomes are more favorable. This issue is of particular interest to SNMA because persons tested late in the course of their infection are more likely to be Black or Hispanic and to have been exposed through heterosexual contact; 87% received their first positive HIV test result at an acute or referral medical care setting, and 65% were tested for HIV antibody because of illness. The SNMA would like the current Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regulation (CMR) 180.300, which requires written consent and counseling before testing, to be reversed to comply with the CDC’s recommendation for opt-out screening. Respectfully, Region VII SNMA Resource: Bernard Branson et al. Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings. CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. September 22, 2006.

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