Health Department Releases HIV Regulations for Public Comment
Albany, March 12, 1999 -- The State Health Department today released proposed regulations to the HIV Reporting and Partner Notification Law, which was enacted into law in 1998. The law and related proposed regulations require that physicians and other health care providers report cases of HIV infections to health officials and notify persons who have been exposed to the virus.
HIV infection is a reportable medical condition in 43 states. But, in New York State, which has been hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, health officials now only receive reports of persons who are diagnosed with AIDS.
"This new law outlines a new public health approach that will extend and save the lives of many New Yorkers," said Dr. Guthrie Birkhead, Director of the Health Department's AIDS Institute "By getting information sooner rather than later to those individuals who may have been exposed to HIV, it gives them the ability to seek immediate treatment and benefit from the new combination drug therapies that are proving effective in controlling the virus."
AIDS cases do not provide current information on trends in the epidemic, since it takes an average of 10 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS. New medications, that are showing promise in controlling the virus, are further extending the time between HIV infection and AIDS diagnosis. "It is vitally important for health officials to have up-to-date information on which individuals and groups currently are at risk for HIV infection in order to better target our prevention activities to halt the spread of the virus and also to ensure that infected persons have access to needed medical care," Dr. Birkhead said.
Under the new law, physicians and clinical laboratories will report to health officials the name of anyone who receives an initial diagnosis of HIV infection, HIV-related illness or AIDS.
Physicians and public health officials will request HIV-infected individuals to volunteer the names of any persons they may have exposed to the virus through sexual contact or needle-sharing. Exposed persons will be contacted confidentially by physicians or health officials and encouraged to have an HIV test to determine if they have been infected. The identity of the person who exposed them to HIV is not revealed in the process.
"Confidentiality is of the utmost importance; this new law implements the security systems and controls we have used successfully for the past 15 years," said Dr. Birkhead.
The information will be maintained in a highly confidential and secure manner, under the provisions of the State's HIV Confidentiality Law, similar to the security protocols that have successfully protected the confidentiality of AIDS case data since 1983. This system of confidentiality has securely protected AIDS data in New York for over 15 years.
The HIV Reporting and Partner Notification Regulations will be published March 17, 1999 in the New York State Register for a 45 day comment period before taking effect.