HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow health professionals to treat the sex partners of people with chlamydia or gonorrhea without first examining them.
Lawmakers in the House Judiciary and Consumer Protection committees planned to vote Wednesday on the proposal, which has already passed the Senate. The state Department of Health says that the bill could prevent infection and result in lower health care costs.
Hawaii has relatively high rates of chlamydia infection, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Hawaii is ranked 22nd out of all 50 states for chlamydia infection rates, the group said.
But despite strong support from the medical community, the bill faces resistance from the Hawaii Association for Justice, a group of lawyers who specialize in personal injury and workers’ compensation, among other areas. The organization says the bill goes too far in shielding health professionals from liability.
Lawmakers are deciding whether or not to adopt the group’s proposed amendment that would make health professionals more liable for distributing treatment.
Supporters of the original bill are urging lawmakers to take into account a 2008 report from the American Bar Association supporting the practice, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “expedited partner therapy.”
The bar association reported that legal concerns discourage doctors from providing treatment and said that the legal barriers must be addressed in order for the treatment to have the most impact.
The CDC has recommended expedited partner therapy for heterosexual sex partners of people with certain sexually transmitted diseases since 2006. According to the agency’s website, 32 states already have laws in place permitting the treatment.