BOSTON – Larry Day was diagnosed with HIV in April, 1996, after being tested without giving his consent. He arrived at the hospital sick, and the doctor tested him for HIV without his knowledge. Without the opportunity for counseling or a conversation with the doctor, he said, he wasn’t mentally prepared to hear the news.
In Massachusetts, a law will take effect on July 26 that requires verbal consent from patients before an HIV test can be given, as opposed to necessitating written consent, which is the commonwealth’s current requirement. Massachusetts was the second to last state in the country to change its law to require verbal consent (Nebraska is the only other state where written consent is needed).
States and AIDS advocacy organizations are pushing for routinized testing because according to the CDC, nearly 20 percent of the 1.1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS do not know they’re infected. Without that knowledge, of course, HIV positive people risk not knowing to seek treatment until it is too late.
In this video, Day tells his HIV testing story and explains why both the new law and doctor-patient conversation are important.