AB 506, which would allow a social worker to order an HIV test for an infant in temporary or full custody of the courts, when a parent or guardian is unavailable to provide consent, has been sent to the governor’s desk. Introduced in the Assembly by Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), the bill passed both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support.
“The good news is there’s evidence that HIV+ infants can become virus-free and stay symptom-free if treated promptly,” said Mitchell, who is chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “The bad news is those babies can die of red tape when their parental or court custodians don’t authorize testing promptly.”
According to Mitchell, the bill serves as a significant benefit to children in the foster care system or under court jurisdiction, and would apply to infants less than a year old who have been exposed or are at risk for HIV infection, only after efforts to contact the parent or guardian have been made and a physician has requested the test. The law further allows treatment to be ordered if the child tests positive for HIV.
Los Angeles County asked Mitchell to carry the bill because it can take up to six months to get court permission for an HIV test for a child in custody of the courts. The county argues that any time lost waiting for the court's permission is time that could otherwise be used to provide critical and necessary medical care to the child to prevent HIV acquisition. The law would not affect children in the active custody of parents or relatives.
“This bill offers life-saving intervention for babies who might otherwise slip through cracks in the bureaucracy,” Mitchell noted. “Yet it protects the child’s and parents’ rights and confidentiality.”