House Passes Bill to Expand AIDS Testing
The House today passed a bill expanding AIDS testing across the nation, after rejecting by wide bipartisan majorities proposals to require testing of prisoners, hospital patients and marriage license applicants.
The vote on the AIDS Federal Policy Act was 367 to 13.
The bill, which sets national policies on testing, confidentiality, research and other areas, has never been debated by the Senate. But House members used a parliamentary maneuver today to send it directly into backstage negotiations to be joined with a Senate-passed bill for education and research on acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
In debate on numerous amendments Thursday, House members defeated by a large margin a proposal requiring states to collect identifying information on people who test positive for the AIDS virus.
Opponents successfully argued that anonymous testing is a much better way to attract people at highest risk of being infected with AIDS and that testing resources need to be concentrated on those people rather than on populations that probably haven’t been exposed.
“Let’s not take limited resources . . . and waste them,” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chief sponsor of the testing measure. “Let the states do their own efforts as they see fit.”
The Waxman bill would give states complying with its terms an extra $400 million a year to conduct widespread, voluntary AIDS testing and counseling.
It also would protect the confidentiality of counseling and testing records, speed up research into AIDS and create a national commission to advise Congress on issues raised by the fatal disease.
Gay Group Praises House
The Human Rights Campaign Fund, a political action committee for the gay and lesbian community, praised the House for rejecting what it called hostile amendments proposed by Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) and other conservatives.
“Members of the House have sent a clear signal to Rep. Dannemeyer and others who support irrational, punitive AIDS actions that the time has come for responsible AIDS policy,” the fund’s executive director, Vic Basile, said in a statement.
The House agreed to require testing of prisoners convicted of prostitution or crimes related to sexual assault or intravenous drug abuse. The plan was approved 266 to 137 as an alternative to mandatory testing of all prisoners.