The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday to expand AIDS testing after rejecting amendments that would require tests for marriage license applicants, hospital patients and prisoners.
The bill, which sets standards for testing, confidentiality and research, represents Congress' first effort to set a national AIDS policy. Federal spending on AIDS is expected to top $1.2 billion in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
The measure has not been debated by the Senate, but House sponsors used a parliamentary maneuver to send the bill directly to negotiations with an AIDS education and research bill the Senate approved last spring.
Besides refusing to require testing for marriage license applicants and other low-risk groups, House members voted against weakening confidentiality protections in the bill, turning down a proposal to make states collect identifying information for people who test positive for AIDS.
"Let's not take limited resources . . . and waste them," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chief sponsor of the House bill. "Let the states do their own efforts."
The bill would give states complying with its requirements an extra $200 million a year to conduct testing and counseling, with another $200 million going directly to health care facilities serving people at risk from AIDS.
The House measure forbids disclosure of AIDS testing and counseling records except with specific written consent of the individual or to health care workers or morticians who could be exposed to the AIDS virus, in cases of blood donations or in response to a court order.
Disclosure to sexual contacts of a person who tests positive would be allowed but not required.
The bill also creates a national AIDS commission to make recommendations on AIDS research, testing, treatment and prevention.