Bill would make life-saving HIV/AIDS information readily available

SACRAMENTOóAssemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (RñCathedral City), has introduced AB 568, which will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee tomorrow afternoon. The bill seeks to actively protect women from the growing health threat of HIV/AIDS. Garcia has been working with an HIV/AIDS organization, concerned legislators and AIDS activists to write this life-saving legislation.

In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that heterosexual women accounted for a staggering 26% of all new cases, with African American and Hispanic women accounting for 83% of these diagnoses. Heterosexual sex has been the primary method of HIV infection for women, with a growing number becoming infected by male partners who had sex with males or sex with needle-sharers.

Women in some communities, where social and cultural norms may discourage them from speaking out about their sexuality, are already at a disadvantage. In some cultures, the promiscuous behavior of male partners is ignored, and in others, seeking assistance brings fear of being stigmatized. Today, few women have the tools that would allow them to recognize the early symptoms of HIV/AIDS.

Assemblywoman Garcia stated, “There is no structure in place for them to get help. More women are at risk than was previously thought and work needs to be done now to reverse this deadly course. We have to protect our sisters, mothers and daughters by eliminating barriers to early diagnosis of HIV infection and increasing access to quality medical care, treatment and ongoing prevention services.”

The current method of obtaining an HIV/AIDS test requires women to seek information or treatment themselves. This requires actively seeking out a testing site, requesting an exam from an unfamiliar medical provider, and in most cases, waiting anxiously for weeks for the results. It is crucial that all women be provided with information about risk factors and encouraged to undergo testing during their normal office visits. Current law only seeks testing of women seeking pre-natal care.

The proposed legislation will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m.