The tests happened between April 11 and May 5 after Kaiser phased in screening in Oregon and Washington that eventually will be offered to people ages 15 to 65. Last year, in an effort to increase screening rates, the Oregon Legislature lessened the consent requirements for HIV tests, saying patients could be informed in writing, rather than verbally as previously required. The law requires a chance to opt out, and allows for people to sue if not given that chance.
David Fidanque of the ACLU of Oregon says the Kaiser misstep would never have happened if not for the new law. Now the notification and option to decline can be buried in screenings' fine print. "A lot of people are going to be upset when they are tested," he said. "Our fear is that there will be a backlash if medical providers don't talk to their patients before ordering this test."
Oregon experiences about 250 new HIV cases per year. More on the epidemic in Oregon from my September 2011 report for TheBody.com: "Targeting Prevention Services to Latino Youth MSM and Undocumented Workers in Oregon."
[Oregon's] HIV rate is very low -- about six-tenths of one percent -- and more than 78 percent of those cases are white, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But if you look closer, you see some familiar trends. Blacks are barely two percent of the population, but accounted for six percent of all HIV cases in 2009.
The Latino HIV/AIDS caseload is growing and the demographic is younger. Latinos account for about 12 percent of the state's population and also for about 12 percent of its HIV/AIDS caseload, according to Kaiser. Migrant workers, the undocumented, drug users and gay and bisexual men are disproportionately represented, too. Sixty-seven percent of all adult HIV cases in Oregon were transmitted by male-to-male sex.
More than 1.1 million people have been diagnosed as HIV positive in the United States since the first cases were reported in 1981. Nearly half have died from HIV/AIDS-related causes. There are currently about 50,000 new cases per year in the United States.