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House Passes Bill to Require HIV Testing for Accused Sex Offenders

A bill (H.R. 3088) designed to aid survivors of sexual assault passed, 380-19, the House on October 2. Considered under suspension of the rules, the measure would require states to allow survivors of sexual assault to request that the alleged assailant be tested for HIV. State funding under the Edward Byrne Grants program would be conditioned on this requirement, and women seeking the test would have to file charges against the alleged assailant in order to make the request.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), the bill would reduce a state’s allocation of Byrne Grant funding by 10 percent unless the state complied with the bill. Under the measure, the alleged assailant may be tested for HIV if “the nature of the alleged crime is such that the sexual activity would have placed the victim at risk of becoming infected with HIV; or if the victim requests that the defendant be so tested.” The test would occur within 48 hours of indictment for the crime and the results would have to be made available to the survivor as soon as “practicable.”

Arguing that the bill “will save the lives of victims of sexual assault,” Rep. Weldon cited a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study: “That study found a 79 percent drop, almost 80 percent, drop in HIV infection with those individuals who are exposed to HIV and were started on treatment within hours of the initial exposure….Clearly, getting information to the victims of sexual assault as quickly as possible is critical in saving the lives of those [individuals] if they have been exposed.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) opposed the bill, saying there were a number of problems with it. “It requires a person to be subjected to an AIDS test, even if they are innocent, even if they can prove their innocence beyond a reasonable doubt….They do not have the opportunity to be heard. They get tested, and there is nothing in the bill for confidentiality. This information just goes all over the place.”

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