Bipartisan support has developed in Sacramento on legislation to protect people with the AIDS virus from discrimination, an important development in implementing a key recommendation of the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. California may be the first state, since the release of the commission's report, to move ahead in this way.
The bill, AB 3795 by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), would provide the same protections for those who test positive to the AIDS virus but have no symptoms of the disease that already exist for those who have been diagnosed as having AIDS. They would be protected as to both housing and employment, as recommended unanimously by the governor's own Fair Employment and Housing Commission.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has also agreed to act on the issue of discrimination--a welcome step in the county with the second-largest AIDS caseload in the nation. The board has ordered the drafting of an ordinance to provide protection against discrimination in housing and employment for those with AIDS, those with AIDS-related complex and those infected with the virus. The proposal won the support of Supervisors Deane Dana, Ed Edelman and Kenneth Hahn; Supervisors Pete Schabarum and Mike Antonovich were opposed.
The state anti-discrimination bill is one of four major elements of AIDS legislation sponsored by the California Medical Assn. All would facilitate the work of health-care providers and public-health officials in restraining AIDS. Two of the measures would relax California's uniquely stringent confidentiality laws--one to allow health-care providers to share HIV test results among themselves as needed, the other to permit the sharing of test data with public-health officers to enable them to do contact tracing of unsuspecting persons at risk from contact with infected persons. The fourth bill, SB 2840 by Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), also would implement a key recommendation of the presidential commission--expanding education and counseling on AIDS.
These constructive proposals address important problems while avoiding the negative consequences inherent in such other proposals as Proposition 102, which has qualified for the November ballot; it would mandate reporting and contact tracing in ways that would disrupt the existing effective structure of the AIDS containment program. That proposition is, for obvious reasons, being vigorously opposed by the California Medical Assn. and most public-health workers.
As the presidential AIDS commission reported, "HIV-related discrimination is impairing this nation's ability to limit the spread of the epidemic." That is the reason the growing support for AB 3795 is so important to everyone in California.