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A bill that would expand the authority of health care providers to test patients for HIV and other blood-borne or airborne diseases without the patient's consent cleared the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Tuesday.

Currently, the state's HIV Shield Law, passed in 1991 and amended in 1999, allows a patient to be tested without consent when a health care worker has "direct skin or mucous membrane contact with the blood or bodily fluids" with the patient in a way that could transmit HIV.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Another law, passed in 2009, allows for similar testing for any life-threatening airborne or blood-borne disease, including tuberculosis, hepatitis C and hepatitis B when a patient has contact with a health care worker in a way that could transmit the disease.

House Bill 1365, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne, would allow for such involuntary testing when law enforcement officers and other emergency workers are the ones at risk of exposure. The bill now goes to the full House.

-- Andy Davis

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