Public Health Law Relating to HIV Reporting and Partner Notification
What are the Public Health law provisions regarding HIV case reporting and partner notification?
In New York State, HIV reporting means that doctors and laboratories must report all cases of HIV infection to the New York State Department of Health. Public Health Law requires HIV case reporting by name. Additionally, laboratories must report HIV nucleic acid tests (viral load tests), CD4 lymphocyte tests, and drug resistance and subtype tests to the State Department of Health. Reporting helps the State Department of Health to accurately monitor the HIV epidemic, assess how the epidemic is changing, and create programs for HIV prevention and medical care that best serve affected people and communities. All reported information is protected by strict confidentiality laws.
Partner notification is important so that people can become aware of their HIV risk and receive HIV counseling and testing. Then they can take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones and get medical care sooner if they are infected. Giving doctors or the Health Department the names of partners is voluntary. While doctors are required to report known partners of their HIV-infected patients to the Health Department for the purpose of partner assistance, doctors are also required to talk with their patients about how they would prefer to let sex partners and needle-sharing partners know they may have been exposed to HIV. See below for more information on partner notification options and assistance available through the PartNer Notification Assistance Program (PNAP) or the Contact Notification Assistance Program (CNAP) in New York City.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines urging all states to collect and report data on HIV cases to track the epidemic on a national basis. Within the next several years, HIV data will become the basis for funding formulas that allocate federal money for HIV care and treatment under the Ryan White CARE Act.
When the name of a person who tests HIV positive is reported to the New York State Department of Health, is that information shared with other government agencies?
No. Under the law, identifying information about people who have HIV can only be used to help the State Department of Health track the epidemic and for partner notification. Information cannot be shared with other government agencies like the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), police, welfare agencies, insurance companies, landlords, or private agencies. The confidentiality of all HIV-related information is protected by New York State Public Health law.
Persons who test HIV positive can choose from the following options how they would like to have their partners informed that they have been exposed to HIV:
- A counselor from the New York State Department of Health PartNer Assistance Program (PNAP) or the Contact Notification Assistance Program (CNAP) in New York City can tell their partners without revealing the identity of the person.
- People can tell their partners with the help of their doctor or PNAP/CNAP counselor.
- People can tell their partners themselves.
Help from PNAP/CNAP is free. For more information, call the New York State Department of Health HIV/AIDS Hotline (see the Resources section). In New York City, call CNAP at (212) 693-1419.
Are people who test HIV positive required to tell their doctor or counselor the names of their partners?
No. A person who tests HIV positive may be asked about his or her partners but is not legally required to reveal names. People cannot be punished or have treatment denied if they do not disclose the names of their partners to a doctor or public health worker. However, people with HIV should know the options they have for partner notification and understand how vitally important it is for partners to know of their possible exposure to HIV so that they can get tested and get treatment if they are infected.
Can doctors notify the partners of a patient with HIV without the patient's permission?
Yes. If a doctor knows the name of a patient's partner, the doctor can notify the partner without the patient's consent. However, the doctor must tell the patient that he or she intends to do this.
What happens if a person who tests HIV positive thinks that a partner will react violently if notified?
If a person who tests HIV positive is concerned that notifying a partner may seriously affect their health or safety, or the health and safety of someone close to them, such as a child, the person is referred for domestic violence services. Partner notification is delayed, until it is safe to proceed. For information about programs providing domestic violence services, call the New York State Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906.