Doctors, Others Vow to Ignore AIDS Measure if it Passes
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Some 500 health care professionals have vowed that if a California ballot measure forcing them to report positive AIDS-test results becomes law, they will defy it, a spokesman for the group said Saturday.
Employees at the largest anonymous testing center in San Francisco also said they would refuse to reveal names of those who test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus if Proposition 102 is approved on Tuesday.
Proposition 102 would ban anonymous testing for the AIDS virus, require health officials and others to report the names of people ″reasonably believed″ to be infected with HIV, and require those infected with the virus to report the names of their spouse or sexual partners. Insurance companies could also test for the virus.
″The bottom line is when police come to our door and ask for the names, we’ll have to say we will not be accomplices to something designed for discrimination,″ said Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, which operates an outreach to the gay and lesbian community in San Francisco.
″The irresponsibile use of this information can result in people losing jobs, their health insurance and their homes,″ added Kahn, who fears that as a clergyman he may be required to report those carrying the virus.
Under the initiative, doctors face misdemeanor charges and fines of $250 for each patient they fail to report.
Despite that, Dr. Floyd Huen, medical director of Highland Hospital in Oakland, said 50 physicians had signed a pledge not to report the names of patients infected with HIV.
″I signed it. I will not turn over anyone in my practice,″ Huen said. ″This is bad public health policy because it will keep people away from being tested and treatment because of fear that they will be reported.″
Huen said many staff members are considering shredding patient records if the initiative passes.
Francis Salmeri, a spokesman for the Alternative Test Site, said workers have decided if the measure passes they will continue offering free anonymous HIV tests.
″Under no condition will we give out names,″ Salmeri said.
Supporters of the measure reacted angrily to the pledge program.
″I do not think responsible people should ask people to break the law,″ said Paul Mero, an aide to Rep. William Dannemeyer of Fullerton.
Dannemeyer co-sponsored the initiative with Paul Gann, the tax crusader who helped spearhead property tax-slashing Proposition 13 a decade ago, and who is now suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome because of a tainted blood transfusion.
Gov. George Deukmejian provoked an outcry from medical experts last week when he announced he would vote for the proposition. Three members of an advisory state AIDS committee resigned their positions in protest.
The governor’s endorsement prompted U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to denounce the measure, saying it would set back AIDS research a minimum of five years.