New HIV Testing Practices in New York Will Improve Screening and Early Diagnosis

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 14, 2010) – Under a new law that took effect this month, changes to New York State's HIV testing practices will increase opportunities for people to be screened for the virus and improve linkages with care and treatment services for individuals diagnosed with HIV.

"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health concern for New Yorkers, and this important change in the law will make HIV testing more routine, while maintaining key patient privacy protections," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The law brings New York's testing practices more in line with guidelines issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and strengthens our efforts to combat HIV and AIDS."

An estimated 20 percent of HIV-positive New Yorkers are unaware they are infected, and 33 percent of persons newly identified with HIV have been infected long enough that they are diagnosed with AIDS within one year. Earlier testing would have linked these individuals to health care that could prevent the onset of AIDS and encourage them to take measures that would avoid transmitting the virus to others.

Some key changes enacted under the law signed by Governor David A. Paterson on July 30, 2010, that are now in effect include:

  • HIV testing must be offered to all persons between the ages of 13 and 64 who receive hospital or primary care services, with limited exceptions noted in the law. The offering must be made to inpatients, persons seeking services in emergency departments, and persons receiving primary care as an outpatient at a clinic or from a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or midwife.
  • Consent for HIV testing can be part of a general durable consent to medical care, although specific opt-out language for HIV testing must be included.
  • Consent for rapid HIV testing can be made verbally and noted by the health care provider in the medical record.
  • Prior to being asked to consent to HIV testing, patients must be provided with information about HIV as required by the Public Health Law.
  • Providers authorizing HIV testing must, with the patient's consent, arrange an appointment for care and treatment for persons confirmed positive.

Humberto Cruz, Director of the Department of Health's (DOH) AIDS Institute, said, "New York State continues to be an epicenter of the HIV epidemic. Over 120,000 people are living with HIV in New York, more than any other state in the country. We need to be working aggressively with all health care providers to ensure people who are infected are found early and offered the life-saving treatments that are available."

More information is available on the DOH website at http://www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/aids/testing/hiv_testing_law.htm

Resources have been posted, including model consent forms and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.