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How New York State's New HIV Testing Law Affects Consumers

Questions and Answers for NYS Residents

How has the law changed?

On July 30, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed an amendment to the New York State law that governs HIV testing. The amended law, which took effect on September 1, 2010, makes testing more readily available in health care settings, while also making it easier for patients to give their consent (permission).

How does the new law affect me as a health care consumer living in New York State?

With limited exceptions, the new State law requires health care professionals to offer all patients between the ages of 13 to 64 a voluntary HIV test. The law applies to anyone receiving treatment for a non-life-threatening condition in a hospital, a hospital emergency department or a primary care setting, such as a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic.

Under the state's old law, patients could not receive HIV tests unless they first provided specific written consent. Under the new law, you can consent to a rapid HIV test by signing a general consent for medical care or by telling the provider that you agree to be tested. Rapid tests produce results within an hour. The provider must make a note of this conversation in your medical record. Though written consent is still required in some circumstances, the new law simplifies the process for providing it.

Why was the law changed?

HIV infection can spread more readily - and kills more readily - when people don’t know they're infected. By integrating HIV testing into routine health care, the new law makes it easier to learn your current HIV status. If you find you are HIV-negative, you can take steps to stay negative. If you learn you are HIV-positive, your health care provider is now legally required to help link you to follow-up medical care, with your consent.

Is HIV testing mandatory?

No. HIV testing remains voluntary. Your health care provider cannot test you without first getting your consent. The provider also must inform you before conducting or ordering the test. You have the right to decline an HIV test before being subjected to one. If you are signing a general consent for medical services, you can decline testing by signing the opt-out section on the form.

If I refuse an HIV test, will the decision affect my care?

No. You will still be seen and treated for whatever condition brought you to seek health services. Health care services and treatment cannot be denied if you decline an HIV test.

Where can I get an HIV test?

The New York State Department of Health offers anonymous HIV testing (you don’t give your name) throughout the state. These facilities will test anyone age 12 years or older, without charge, regardless of their health insurance coverage or immigration status. HIV testing is also available in hospitals, doctors’ offices and community clinics. To find an HIV testing site near you, go to:

Does health insurance cover HIV testing?

Most managed care plans now cover HIV screening. It is also covered by New York State's Medicaid and Medicare programs.

How often should I be tested for HIV?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting re-tested for HIV if you have ever engaged in any of the following behaviors (even once) that might increase your risk:

  • Injecting drugs or steroids with shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, or works)
  • Having unprotected anal, vaginal, or oral sex
  • Exchanging sex or drugs for money
  • Having unprotected sex with anyone who has engaged in any of the activities above or whose HIV status you do not know

If you continue with any of these behaviors that increase your risk of HIV transmission, you should be tested every year. Talk to a health provider about an HIV testing schedule that is right for you.

If I am younger than 18 years old, do I need my parents' permission to get tested?

No. People under age 18 do not need parental consent to be tested for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Under the new HIV testing law, the test should be offered to you starting at age 13.

Are your test results kept confidential (private)?

Yes. Healthcare providers and laboratories are required to report positive HIV test results to the New York State Department of Health. But HIV test results - whether positive or negative - are kept strictly confidential in accordance with the law.