Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
February 17, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Files HIV Screening Bill
Legislation would implement CDC recommendations, make HIV screenings more routine

(Austin, Texas) — To better combat HIV and AIDS in Texas, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today filed legislation to make HIV screenings a more routine part of Texans' medical check-ups.

The legislation, SB 877, would require that Texans be offered an HIV test as part of their routine medical check up. The proposal implements the 2006 Centers for Disease Control recommendations, which called for patients to be screened for HIV as part of their routine medical exam.

"Texas ranks 4th in the nation for reported cases of AIDS, but there are pockets in my district where infection rates rival that of African nations," said Ellis. "This legislation will address that crisis by building knowledge and reducing fear, all while ensuring patient privacy is maintained."

Under the legislation, health care providers would be required to offer routine HIV testing to patients, while maintaining the individual's right of refusal and privacy. The plan will also ensure that standard health benefit plans and Medicaid cover the costs of the tests, which average $35.

According to the CDC, Texas ranks 4th in the nation for reported cases of AIDS. From 2003 to 2007, over one quarter of all new diagnoses in Texas received an AIDS diagnosis within one month of being diagnosed for HIV, indicating that a significant proportion of those infected were not diagnosed until very late into their progression. Studies have shown that treating AIDS is substantially more difficult and more costly than treating HIV during the early stages of the infection.

Too many Texans living with HIV receive a late diagnosis or do not know of their infection. The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 persons living with HIV in the US are not aware of their infection. Persons unaware of their infection may be responsible for nearly 50% of the new sexually transmitted HIV cases each year.

One in three Texans with HIV receives a late diagnosis – meaning that they have an AIDS diagnosis within one year of their first HIV diagnosis. Late diagnosis increases the cost of treatment and shortens lives. Late diagnosis and treatment also increase the chances of transmissions to others, since there is strong evidence that people reduce their risky behaviors after their HIV diagnosis and treatment further reduces transmissibility by reducing their viral load.

"Thankfully HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is clear that early diagnosis is a key to fighting the disease and its spread, "said Ellis. "The sooner a person is made aware of their status, the sooner they will change their behavior, which will reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to others."

FOLLOW UP: Texas has the 11th highest rate of AIDS in the nation. The national average is 4.5 deaths per 100,000; Texas' rate is 4.9 per 100,000.

Link to CDC recommendations: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5514a1.htm

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