Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CA Legislature Passes Streamlined Rapid HIV Testing Bill; AHF Urges Schwarzenegger to Sign Law

FROM: AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the operator of the largest non-government HIV testing program in California, today praised the California Legislature for its passage of Assembly Bill 221, which cleared the Assembly on final concurrence (61-0) today and moves on to the Governor’s desk. AB 221 updates and streamlines the training of counselors for rapid HIV testing by exempting persons administering finger stick rapid HIV tests from the requirement for certification as a limited phlebotomy technician (LPT). It is widely expected that Schwarzenegger will sign the bill. However; as AB 221 has been designated an urgency bill and will go into effect as soon as the Governor signs it rather than early next year, AHF is reiterating its call on the Governor to swiftly sign the bill.

The bill, authored by Assembly Member Anthony Portantino (D—Pasadena) and co-sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, eliminates barriers to expanding access to HIV rapid screening by reforming outdated, unnecessary and excessive training standards for HIV counselors who administer the finger stick rapid test.

“Over the past three years, the California Legislature and the Governor have led the charge to foster widespread routine HIV screening. One after another, barriers to screening have been erased so that California can ensure an optimal environment for people to learn their HIV status and get into life-saving treatment. AB 221 removes yet another barrier,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, co-sponsor of the bill. “We encourage Governor Schwarzenegger to quickly sign this pragmatic and money-saving bill into law.”

“AB 221 exempts persons administering HIV rapid tests from the need for certification as a limited phlebotomy technician,” said Joseph Terrill, Domestic Testing Manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Currently, finger stick rapid tests can only be administered by HIV counselors who are certified as LPTs. Certification requires 20 hours of training and 25 practical supervised finger sticks. The cost of that training, approximately $2,500 per person, has discouraged many test sites and organizations from increasing the number of HIV counselors who are LPTs. AB 221 brings California law current with improvements in the technology of HIV testing.”

“This bill wisely eliminates unnecessary administrative costs that currently impede expansion of much needed HIV testing here in California,” added Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Director of AHF’s Public Health Division. “When signed into law, as we expect Governor Schwarzenegger will do, AB 221 will allow for far greater flexibility in how programs do HIV testing.”

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