Forced HIV Testing
Via the AP, the New York Times is reporting that, “Rape suspects can be forced to undergo H.I.V. testing under a law signed yesterday by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The measure gives rape victims the option of forcing an indicted suspect to be tested under a court order, with the results provided to the victim and the suspect.”
I understand the need to provide treatment to rape victims who may have been exposed to HIV. I also understand that not everyone who commits a rape is convicted in the courts, and so that information might not become available to the vicitm under the old law, and that the process from rape to conviction can be a long one. However, forcing individuals to submit to the test, and making a single person’s results known to another individual seems like a profound invasion of privacy. What happens in cases when the suspect turns out to not actually the rapist and a preexisting HIV infection is made known to the victim? I don’t know how often that would occur, given how many rapists are known to their victims prior to the event, but I can see this as a problem that might arise.
According to this press release from the Governor’s office,
The legislation will apply when a defendant has been indicted for the crime, and the victim makes a request to the court within six months of that crime. The court is required to order HIV testing of the indicted defendant whenever it finds that such testing would provide medical or psychological benefit to the victim.
It seems, then, that the law would not apply to every possibly suspect, but only once a single suspect is known and suspected. Still, it gives me the willies, and I suspect that my libertarian friends are having heart attacks right about now.
The new law does have an aspect that I think will be helpful to rape victims:
The bill requires hospitals to inform victims that they may be eligible to receive reimbursement for costly HIV treatments from the Crime Victims Board, a state agency that helps victims cover various expenses. In addition, it will require the State Department of Health to develop guidelines to ensure that accurate and current medical information regarding testing, counseling and medical treatment is available, and that testing is done for a medical benefit.