OHSU resident shepherds HIV screening bill through legislature

Christina Baumann, MD, collaborated with Providence colleague to create and advocate for systematized HIV screening in Oregon

The Oregon House and Senate recently passed unanimously Senate Bill 1507, which made its way through Oregon’s first even year legislative session largely due to the work of an OHSU resident and her Providence colleague. Christina Baumann, MD, was in a practicum at the Oregon Health Authority to develop an HIV screening pilot for the Emergency Department Observation Unit, when she began investigating Oregon statutes which require a separate informed consent process prior to testing for HIV.

 “This precludes the possibility of incorporating consent into the general medical consent and necessitates an opt-in model for screening,” said Dr. Baumann. The project she was working on was part of a larger aim to expand HIV testing in Oregon, given the CDC’s recommendations to do so and, according to Dr. Baumann, low testing rates and late diagnoses in Oregon.

Meanwhile, a Providence resident, Dr. Andy Seaman, was also trying to develop a systematized screening project for his ED, and he contacted Dr. Baumann – an OHSU Internal Medicine residency graduate and current Public Health & Preventive Medicine fellow – about working together to change Oregon’s HIV testing laws to facilitate routine screening.

The bill is now on its way to the governor for his signature. When enacted into law, SB 1507 will remove the requirement that a person give separate informed consent for HIV testing.

This was Dr. Baumann’s first experience shepherding a bill through the legislative process. Despite being warned about the relative rarity of having a bill pass in a single session with unanimous bipartisan support, she has learned from the experience.

“The entire process was a revelation to me. I was most impressed by how approachable our legislators are and how much support Andy and I were given on how to navigate the system,” said Dr. Baumann. “I definitely came away with the understanding that clinicians’ recommendations on policy are both welcome and needed by our state leadership. We have a strong voice and influence when we choose to use it, even outside of our professional organizations.”

She also credits the success to guidance and support of OHSU colleagues and community organizations, including Todd Korthuis, MD, MPH, Director, OHSU HIV research program, Cascade AIDS Project, Multnomah County Health Department, the Oregon Public Health Division, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians and the Oregon Medical Association.

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Pictured above: Christina Baumann, MD