HIV Testing Remains High Under Name-Based Reporting

Albany, N.Y., (September 17, 2007) - New York's law requiring HIV name-based reporting and partner notification has not dampened individuals' willingness to be tested for the disease, according to a study by the State Health Department's AIDS Institute.

The study allays fears that name-based HIV reporting would deter HIV testing behavior.

"The state's name-based reporting law is a valuable tool in tracking HIV infections in a timely manner," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The study provides solid evidence that the law does not deter testing."

The study results will be published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study is based on analyses of HIV testing trends before and after HIV name-based reporting and partner notification, and on in-person interviews of 761 high-risk individuals in four cities – Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse – between 2001 and 2004.

The study found that high-risk individuals had limited awareness of the reporting and notification law, and few cited concern about named reporting as a reason for avoiding or delaying HIV testing. The law had no effect on testing levels, post-test counseling rates or individuals' willingness to allow use of their names where the identification is held confidential by the Department of Health.

New York's HIV Reporting and Partner Notification (HIVRPN) law became effective June 1, 2000. The law requires reporting by name of persons with HIV infection, HIV-related illness, and AIDS by physicians and laboratories. Physicians also are required to report partners of infected individuals. However, individuals testing HIV positive cannot be compelled to name their sexual partners.

Prior to 2000, public health surveillance in the state was carried out exclusively through the reporting of AIDS cases. Because of the 10-year average lag time for HIV infection to progress to AIDS, this measurement reflected disease transmission patterns of the distant past. In the mid-1990s, the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy delayed progression even more, further reducing the value of this tracking. It was in this context that the state reporting and notification law was passed.

Guthrie S. Birkhead, M.D., Director of the AIDS Institute, said, "The primary advantages of this law are better epidemiologic tracking of the HIV-AIDS epidemic and more effective partner notification to get persons exposed to HIV diagnosed and into care sooner."

James M. Tesoriero, Director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Research at the AIDS Institute, said, "It is important to note that the New York program does not force people to provide partner names. In addition, anonymous HIV counseling and testing remains available for those who may have concerns about their name being reported to the Health Department."

New York State leads the nation in AIDS, with more than 170,000 cases, according to the most recent statistics available.

In addition to Tesoriero and Birkhead, the study was conducted and written by Haven B. Battles, Ph.D.; Karyn Heavner, Ph.D.; Shu-Yin John Leung, all of the AIDS Institute; and research scientists Chris Nemeth and Wendy Pulver, who work in the state Health Department's Bureau of HIV/AIDS Epidemiology.