Proposed law aims to increase STD testing among partners of inmates
On May 15, the Illinois Senate and House passed bill HB4453, a measure aimed at developing a protocol to inform the sexual partners of prisoners infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that they may want to seek out STD testing. The legislation must get final approval from Governor Pat Quinn before becoming official.
One hurdle lawmakers will have to overcome in implementing the mandate is informing the prisoner and their partners – who may also be inmates – that they should get tested, without disclosing the identity of the infected convict.
"Even though these people are in prison, they still have the right to privacy," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, quoted by The Chicago Citizen. "Having an STD is a very private thing that many people find embarrassing. However, when STDs go untreated, they can have serious consequences. We need to make sure we don’t put personal privacy ahead of public safety."
In an article about the bill on Chicago news source AustinTalks.org, experts explained that maintaining a prisoner's privacy is very important because public disclosure of an STD may affect their ability to get a job once released. John Peller, vice president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, told the news source that Illinois law has provisions specifically aimed at preventing the release of such information.
The legislation may go a long way in curbing the rate of STDs in the state, considering that inmates tend to have a higher prevalence of infections.
Peller said that even though the bill directly pertains to prisoners and their partners, it may also be considered a public health measure. This may especially be true when it comes to women's sexual health, Peller noted.