Now there's something you don't see every day: a bill to require convicted hookers and johns to get tested for AIDS.

Such is the nature of House Bill 1263, pitched by Rep. Bob Deelstra (R-9/Hartford). Rep. Deelstra would require anyone convicted of prostitution or solicitation of prostitution to undergo at their own expense an HIV test. The results of the test remain confidential except to individuals who petition the court and demonstrate probable cause to believe that they have engaged in infection-sharing behavior with the convict.

Rep. Deelstra's bill avoids charges of sexual discrimination by testing convicted hookers and johns alike. It avoids a Fifth Amendment challenge by excluding the test results from use as evidence in any criminal prosecution.

But is it necessary? Early AIDS research showed that female sex workers were highly likely to use safe sex practices and were not more likely to spread HIV/AIDS to men than were women not working in the sex trade. Paid sex is not a major factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS in North America and Western Europe. South Dakota is experiencing a surge in gonorrhea cases, but prostitution is not mentioned as one of the major contributing factors.

South Dakota currently mandates HIV testing for no one, not even rapists. We examine every prisoner for venereal diseases, but that's syphilis, gonorrhea, and canchroid, not HIV. We do have statutes by which victims of sexual assualt and officers or emergency medical responders can petition the court to test defendants for HIV.

It would seem that if there is a compelling risk to public health that warrants such an intrusion on anyone's bodily privacy and autonomy, we perhaps ought to start with rapists and perhaps other sex offenders who have violated others against their will rather than participants in a nominally consensual albeit illegal act.