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Bill aimed to make HIV testing easier passes Senate committee

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A bill that would make it much easier for doctors to test patients for the HIV virus made its way through a Florida Senate committee on Wednesday.

The measure (SB 512) is sponsored by Orlando Democrat Geraldine Thompson. She said it would eliminate paperwork that “burdens doctors” when they test in a health screening, such as for glucose or diabetes. The patient would have the prerogative to opt out if they did not want to be tested.

The Florida Hospital Association and representatives from other health organizations announced their support of the bill, but not everybody was down with it.

South Florida AIDS activist Michael Rajner said he hoped that there could be amendments added to the relatively straightforward bill, mentioning a number of negative scenarios that he said could result from its passage.

Those concerns included further criminalizing the spread of HIV, and the fact that homophobia exists in the medical world.

“I also have concerns, as a gay man; I have to acknowledge that HIV/AIDS has devastated the LGBT community, since the advent of marriage equality, we’ve seen a rise in homophobia,” Rajner said. “That even happens in medical settings.”

He said he was worried that some doctors aren’t properly trained and said that could result in worsening somebody who has the virus.

But Democratic state Sen. Chris Smith said that, while he appreciated Rajner’s concerns, he said the bill had nothing to do with the criminalization of HIV transmission.

“This touches on informed consent,” Smith said. “We need to try to turn that corner, we need to de-stigmatize the issue. I think that’s what this bill tries to do.”

The bill then passed unanimously in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services. A similar bill (HB 321) is being sponsored by Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila. He has previously said he expects that bill to get to the House floor.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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