HIV Bills Moving Swiftly in D.C.

Catania legislation aims to increase educational efforts for health professionals and senior citizens

By John Riley
Published on April 19, 2012, 8:44am | Comments

Two bills designed to increase awareness and promote a dialogue on HIV/AIDS between patients and service providers are closer to becoming law after being passed on consent – meaning without any objections - during a first reading of the bills before the full City Council April 17.

The bills, introduced by Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), seek to expand HIV/AIDS education in the medical and senior citizen communities in hopes of combating the District's high HIV/AIDS rates. Brendan Williams-Kief, a spokesman for Catania, said that Catania's office expects both bills will pass unanimously on the bills' second reading.

''Taken together, these bills will continue to put the District at the forefront of combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic,'' Catania said in a prepared statement. ''Over the past several years, the District has made tremendous strides in the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. Social marketing campaigns, condom distribution efforts and other outreach programs have contributed significantly to the 28 percent reduction in new HIV/AIDS cases that the District experienced between 2008 and 2009.''

The first bill, the ''HIV/AIDS Continuing Medical Education Act of 2011,'' would require any continuing-education requirements for doctors, nurses or physicians assistants include three credits of instruction on HIV/AIDS, covering impact on populations of different ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Such training would also teach health providers about the risk of HIV infection, how to discuss HIV/AIDS with patients and how to monitor patients for potential exposure to the disease.

The bill would also allow the mayor, with the approval of the Department of Health, to require the continuing education requirements for all practicing health professionals within the District include instruction on HIV/AIDS. Catania said in a statement that greater dialogue between patients and medical professionals could increase HIV/AIDS testing, which in turn could prevent new infections or connect positive individuals with appropriate care faster.

The second bill, the ''Senior HIV/AIDS Education and Outreach Program Establishment of 2012,'' would create a peer HIV/AIDS educational outreach program, designed and administered by the Department of Health, for senior audiences. Under such a program, peer educators would make presentations and conduct workshops in places where seniors tend to congregate, including senior centers, nursing and retirement homes and religious centers.

The peer education program is intended to complement existing outreach efforts for older residents. The legislation also allows the Department of Health to offer peer educators a stipend for their work, if funds are available.