Senator Wiener Introduces Legislation to Expand Access to Rapid Syphilis Testing
SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation, SB 932, to address the major increase in syphilis infections by authorizing HIV counselors to perform rapid syphilis tests. Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) is principal coauthor of the bill. HIV counselors are authorized to perform rapid HIV tests, but not rapid syphilis tests. This test is inexpensive, simple to use with minimal training, and produces results in about 10 minutes. Despite being easy to prevent, syphilis infections were up almost 15% from 2017 to 2018, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, this SB 932 requires HIV counselors to undergo an HIV counseling training course that has been certified by the Office of AIDS.
The bill will also allow HIV counselors to administer rapid tests for other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea if they become available.
According to the CDC, new STI infections are increasing in all parts of California, and with the highest rates occurring among young people ages 15-24, people of color, and gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men. HIV counselors must be able to administer rapid syphilis and other STI tests in order to provide better care for patients and reduce the rate of infection and transmission. After the test is performed, patients can quickly get results and receive medical care for syphilis and other treatable STIs if they test positive.
In addition to increasing rates of syphilis among adults, congenital syphilis – where the condition is passed down to an infant during pregnancy – is also on the rise in California. There was an 18.1% increase in cases of congenital syphilis from 2017 to 2018, according to the CDC. If syphilis is detected during a pregnancy through STI tests, it is usually possible to prevent infection in the baby.
This legislation is part of a larger effort by Senator Wiener to reduce and eventually eliminate new HIV and STI infections. He recently introduced SB 859, which would require the state to introduce a master plan to comprehensively address the HIV and STI epidemics.
SB 932 is co-sponsored by APLA Health and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Senator Scott Wiener said:
“Syphilis is a major public health threat, and infections are increasing across the country and in California. Other STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia are also on the rise. We currently have the tools to quickly get people tested for syphilis and get them the care they need. Our healthcare providers must be allowed to actually use those tools as they are developed and approved.
“Expanding access to rapid syphilis and other STIs testing is a key part of helping people know their status and get quick and effective treatment. It makes all the sense in the world to allow HIV counselors – who already perform rapid HIV tests – to also perform rapid syphilis and STI tests at the same time.”
Senator Lena Gonzales said:
“Many cities throughout the state face growing STI rates. I am proud to co-author this important bill, to provide easier access to rapid STI testing. By allowing HIV counselors to perform these tests, we can help increase the number of people getting tested and prevent the transmission of STIs statewide.”
Craig E. Thomas, CEO of APLA Health, said:
“California’s STI rates have reached record highs, yet access to rapid testing and treatment remains extremely limited. Allowing HIV counselors to provide rapid STI testing is a logical and necessary step to increase the number of people who receive treatment and reduce costs to the healthcare system for undetected infections. We are proud to partner with Senator Wiener on this important piece of legislation.”
Joe Hollendoner, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said:
“SB 932 is a commonsense, practical solution to getting more people tested and treated for STIs, This legislation will help California address its STI epidemic by ensuring that people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, youth, women, and other communities experiencing high rates of infections can access HIV, HCV, and STI testing from a singular, properly-trained test counselor in a safe and trusted setting. We applaud Senator Wiener on this legislation and his commitment to ending the sexual health crisis in the state.”