February 11, 2008

Honorable Senator Thomas Coburn
United States Senate
172 Russell Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: (202) 224-6008 (2 pages)

RE: SUPPORT FOR SENATE AMENDMENT #4012 TO S.1200

Dear Senator Coburn:

Beyond AIDS, a national organization dedicated to achieving more effective control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, strongly supports the above amendment, #4012, to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. It is a basic right of a sexual assault victim to know if she was been exposed to HIV or another sexually transmitted disease, and such knowledge can help to avoid further transmission as well as to permit early medical treatment.

Beyond AIDS has supported legislation to permit testing of indicted rape or sexual abuse suspects, at the state level, e.g., the recent successful New York State bill A9256/S6357. That bill, which was signed into law and took effect November 1, 2007, allows the court – at the request of the victim – to require the accused be tested for HIV within 48 hours of an indictment. The New York bill was authored by Assembly Member Nettie Mayersohn, who currently serves as the Vice-President of our organization.

Amendment #4012 provides a financial incentive to other states to pass similar legislation within one year of enactment. It applies to other sexually transmitted diseases besides HIV/AIDS, as medically appropriate. Both the victim and the indicted defendant would also be notified of the result, and furthermore, treatment and counseling related to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases would be provided as needed for the victims of sexual abuse.

This amendment is needed because in our legal system’s zeal to protect the rights of the defendant, we have often overlooked the rights and testing and treatment needs of the victim. A sexual abuse victim who is not aware of being exposed to HIV or another STD may inadvertently transmit such an infection further. The amendment will promote public health by providing the earliest information to both the defendant and the victim about any such infection, and will promote earlier and more effective treatment.

In most cases, however, testing will not show the presence of one of these diseases, and that will also be extremely beneficial to the mental health of the victim, alleviating emotional anguish and anxiety. Facilitation of post-exposure testing to identify which victims have not been exposed to infections will also avoid the need for post-exposure treatment, which can sometimes cause serious side effects.

Thank you for introducing this valuable amendment. Please feel free to contact us further about this matter if further assistance is needed.

Sincerely,
Ronald P. Hattis, MD, MPH
President, Beyond AIDS

Cary Savitch, MD
Immediate Past-President, Beyond AIDS


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