Bill requires STD testing for defendants charged with criminal sexual conduct

Sen. Amanda Shelton (PNC file photo)

Senator Amanda L. Shelton introduced Bill No. 111-36 (COR) to fill a gap in the law governing testing for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or other sexually transmitted disease (STD) for perpetrators charged with of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) at the request of the victim.

“Survivors of criminal sexual conduct experience trauma that no human being should have to endure. Perpetrators violate these individuals’ bodies and forcefully strip away their autonomy,” said Senator Shelton. “Bill 111 adds one more measure of protection for survivors of these heinous crimes.”

If passed, the measure—co-sponsored by Speaker Therese M. Terlaje, Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Senator Telena Cruz Nelson and Senator Mary Camacho Torres—allows CSC victims to know the results of their perpetrator’s HIV or STD testing as soon as possible. As proposed, the court, at the victim’s request, must order HIV or STD testing of the defendant within 48-hours of an indictment, ensuring that victims receive timely medical attention.

Data from the Office of Epidemiology and Research at the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) shows that cases and incidence rates of STDs have increased in Guam since 2014.[1] Cases of gonorrhea continued to rise from 99 cases in 2014 to 225 in 2018, a 127 percent increase. In addition, the incidence rate of new chlamydia cases in 2017 was 675.5 per 100,000 population, which was higher than the United States rate of 524.6 per 100,000.

Furthermore, data from the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018 notes Guam’s HIV rate of infection at 4.2 per 100,000 population.[2] Data from the same DPHSS report provides an incidence rate for HIV in Guam at 5.0, much higher than rates from our regional neighbors such as in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (1.9) and Hawai’i (4.9).

Bill 111 also comes at the heels of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs’ receipt of a $900,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice to employ six (6) more nurses trained to administer forensic sexual assault exams under the Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Program. A condition of this grant is that Guam must meet the requirements concerning HIV testing of defendants charged with CSC at the victim’s request, under 34 U.S.C. § 10461(d).

“Bill 111 ensures that our justice system fully informs and protects victims,” added Senator Shelton. “To be truly effective, examinations of the perpetrator must be as close to the criminal act as possible.”

(Office of Senator Amanda L. Shelton Release)