Dept. of Health Services: New law makes HIV testing easier

Contact: Seth Boffeli

(608) 266-1683

MADISON—State health officials today praised Governor Jim Doyle’s signing of Act 209 (Assembly Bill 659) as a long-overdue modernization of state law governing HIV testing.

“This change will promote more routine HIV testing in health care settings, earlier identification of infection and more timely medical care for persons with HIV infection. It also strengthens patients’ rights by ensuring that patients who are HIV positive cannot be denied treatment,” said Karen Timberlake, Secretary of the Department of Health Services. “In addition, this new law will reduce the time and paperwork associated with HIV testing, which will lead to more people getting tested.”

Under the new law, a health care provider must notify the person that he or she will be tested for HIV unless the person declines the test. The fact that a person declines testing cannot be reason for denying someone services or treatment. The new law also strengthens privacy provisions by doubling the penalties for illegal disclosure of HIV test results from previous amounts.

Timberlake said that HIV infection remains a significant public health problem in Wisconsin and the United States. In 2009, new cases of HIV infection in Wisconsin increased by 11% compared to 2008 and have increased by 32% since 2001. Nationally, approximately 56,000 individuals in the U.S. are newly infected each year, and of this estimate, 21% are infected and do not know it. Transmission from persons who are not aware of their infection accounts for 54-70% of the new infections.

“The number of people living with HIV continues to grow as new infections occur and HIV treatments successfully extend life. Early detection is an invaluable resource in stopping the spread of this disease. With an improved consent law, testing and detection in Wisconsin will be significantly improved,” said Secretary Timberlake.

National health care reform also provides an opportunity to fight the spread of HIV by promoting responsible behavior. The new law includes $75 million per year through 2014 for education grants to states. Funding is also available for innovative teen pregnancy prevention strategies and services to high-risk, vulnerable, and culturally under-represented populations including racial and ethnic minorities and Indian tribes.

The Wisconsin Office of Health Care Reform will be pursuing several opportunities for increased public health funding made available through national health care reform. To learn more, please visit: