AIDS Test Rule Brings 14% Drop in Illinois Marriages

From United Press International

When Illinois decided to require couples to undergo AIDS testing to get a marriage license, the number of marriages in the state abruptly decreased, a study showed Friday.

For about 20 months--from Jan. 1, 1988, through Sept. 10, 1989--Illinois marriage law required people who wanted to marry to provide a doctor’s statement saying they had been tested for the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

An analysis of marriage licenses found the number of marriages performed in Illinois dropped by about 14% during the period of mandatory HIV testing.

Furthermore, during that period there was a marked increase in marriages performed in neighboring states--Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri. Midwestern states that do not border Illinois showed no major changes in the number of marriages during that time.


“Rather than take the HIV blood test and get married in Illinois, or not get married at all, couples crossed the state line and were married in states bordering Illinois,” Jack McKillip of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., wrote in a study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Some have speculated that the cost of HIV testing may have been the major factor spurring the exodus of would-be newlyweds from Illinois. However, McKillip questions that conclusion.

The typical cost of HIV testing was somewhere between $20 and $60 per couple and the cost of an Illinois marriage license was $15, McKillip said. In neighboring Wisconsin, a marriage license cost $50 plus an extra $10 fee for waiving the customary five-day waiting period. Travel costs would also help boost out-of-state license costs well above the Illinois level, he said.

Instead, McKillip theorizes that fear of the HIV test stemmed from a generalized fear of AIDS and prompted couples to avoid the issue by leaving the state.

Illinois repealed its HIV testing requirement for marriage in September, 1989. Louisiana was the only other state to adopt mandatory premarital HIV testing, but that practice was stopped after a short time.