"ALBANY, N.Y. -- Rape suspects would be forced to undergo HIV testing under a bill quietly making its way into law despite some impassioned opposition by gay rights advocates.
The bill, which has strong support in the Legislature, would give rape victims the option of forcing a suspect to be tested under a court order, with the results provided to the victim and the suspect. The test would be constitutional before a suspect is convicted, just as blood tests can be required of drunken driving suspects, argued the bill's co-sponsor, Republican Sen. Stephen Saland.
Supporters say the test would let victims know right away if they need to get HIV treatment.
"There are legislators who think this will be a good press release bill, but it could be very hurtful to the victim," said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Manhattan Democrat who is gay and HIV-positive. "On the face of it, it seems like this bill makes sense. What it really shows is a misunderstanding of what will help victims and about the transmission of HIV."
He said a rape victim should immediately accept the offer of anti-HIV treatment available in emergency rooms and not be tempted wait for a court to order the suspect to take a test for the virus that causes AIDS. Duane also said a test result might show the suspect didn't have the virus, prompting the victim to discontinue preventive treatment, only to find out later that the suspect was the wrong person.
Housing Works, the nation's largest community-based AIDS organization that provides housing and other services, is still lobbying to block the bill.
"It's really not something that has rape survivors at the heart of it," she said. "It's much more about hitting hard this myth of people with HIV going out there and murdering through sexual violence ... they should be ashamed of themselves."
The bill passed 44-14.
"It's a `go,"' Saland, of Poughkeepsie, said Wednesday. The bill sponsor noted victims receive counseling to help them decide whether to require the suspect to be tested. "Basically what (opponents) are saying is that people that have been victimized in the vilest of fashion, don't have the ability to make intelligent decisions," Saland said. "Why should that person be denied?" Saland said. "Why should they have to wait years, for conviction, buy which time it is truly academic."
By MICHAEL GORMLEY
Associated Press Writer
I think this bill makes sense. When you weigh the pros and cons I think it is more preventative than anything. However, if the suspect is tested and is not HIV positive and the victim does not take any precautions against HIV for that reason...and then later it is proved that the suspect was innocent... the victim is left in a vulnerable state. But if the suspect does test positive it could save the victims life!
It seems that the best solution may be to require testing of the suspects and also to provide HIV treatment to the victims. I do not think that requiring this test is making the point that all people with HIV/AIDS go out and rape people. I think it is a preventative measure to help the victims feel safe. They have just been violated and treated less then human. If anything this could be a step to help them recover by giving them one less thing to worry about.