February 9, 2016

School nurses could no longer be notified of HIV-positive students

Rep. Joan Brady (r) led the effort to pass the bill

Students who are HIV-positive would no longer have to tell a school nurse about their infection under a bill that passed the South Carolina House of Representatives in a 71-34 vote Wednesday.

Supporters say the requirement is useless and scares some teens away from getting tested. Right now, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control is required to inform the school nurse and school district superintendent if a student is HIV-positive. However, federal law prevents the nurse from telling parents, staff, or other students.

Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) said officials want to encourage more teens to get tested. She said some students are afraid of the social stigma associated with AIDS and don’t get the testing they need.

The concept behind this bill originally was to be sure that high school students… come forward and get AIDs testing… We want young people to be tested for AIDS. We want them to feel comfortable being tested for AIDS, that it is not going to negatively be used against them.

The bill originally came out of the Senate. Senators have to approve one change made in the House before it can head to the governor’s desk.

Previous efforts to pass the bill were derailed by former Governor Mark Sanford, who said school officials should be able to know about any students that are HIV-positive. In 2008, then-Representative Nikki Haley voted for the bill, but later voted to sustain the governor’s veto. She has not yet publicly said if she would sign this year’s version into law.

An earlier attempt to pass the bill was voted down 49-35 by the House last week. Some legislators switched their vote after the language was changed so it would not cover elementary school children.

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