Florida doctor calls for changes to HIV testing laws
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HIV, like many other medical conditions, can be controlled with medications if it is caught early. However, far too often people are unaware that they are infected with the virus, and do not seek treatment from a doctor until it is too late. Recently, The Florida Times-Union published an article by Nitin Ubhayakar, M.D., a resident physician at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Florida Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, who called for Florida residents to do more to fight against HIV.
According to the doctor, she recently had a patient die in her care because the woman had undiagnosed HIV. The expert stated that if the virus had been diagnosed earlier, the woman might still be alive today. Ubhayakar wrote that Florida, in particular, needs to do more to fight back against HIV. The state has the most HIV diagnoses in the United States and the highest rate of infection. The doctor believes that this is partially due to the fact that not enough people visit sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing centers in Florida. Furthermore, barriers to testing patients may also be to blame.
"In a period where physicians can test for almost any communicable disease to figure out why a patient is sick without formally asking for a patient’s approval, HIV often requires a formalized consent. This means that HIV-positive people can access the medical system multiple times over the course of their lifetimes and never be diagnosed," wrote Ubhayakar for the news source.
She called for new HIV testing laws in Florida that would allow healthcare providers to test more patients who they suspect have the virus.
In April 2012, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill that removed the requirement that patients give written consent for HIV testing and replacing it with verbal consent, in the hopes that it would increase the number of people who catch the disease early.
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