State Health Commissioner Notes National HIV Testing Day

Urges New Yorkers to "Take the Test, Take Control"

Albany, June 27, 2001 – At a news conference today to mark National HIV Testing Day, New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. P.H. strongly urged New Yorkers who may be at risk for HIV to learn their HIV status without delay to protect themselves and the people they care about most.

"National HIV Testing Day is bringing renewed attention to the urgent issue of HIV/AIDS and the reasons why getting tested has become so crucial. If there is any chance at all that you may be at risk, getting tested for HIV is the only sure way to know if you have the virus," Dr. Novello said. "The reasons for testing are dual in nature; if you learn that you are infected with HIV, you can get treatment that may help you live longer, and second, if you learn you are not infected, you can find out what you need to do to stay that way."

Under Governor Pataki, New York State leads the nation in providing the most comprehensive system of medical and support services for HIV–infected residents and prevention services for persons at risk. New York's budget includes $2.2 billion in support for HIV/AIDS programs and health care services–the highest level of support for prevention, treatment and other services of any state in the nation. More than $112 million supports grants to health care and community–based organizations to serve persons with HIV or who are at risk of contracting HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a third of all those who are infected with HIV are not aware they have the virus. In New York, between 130,000 and 180,000 New Yorkers are believed to be living with HIV–nearly one percent of the State's 11 total population. Minority communities are disproportionately affected. Anyone who has HIV can transmit the infection, even if they have no symptoms.

Learning one's HIV status is not difficult. The two most common methods of testing for HIV are a blood test, in which a small amount of blood is drawn with a syringe, and oral fluid testing, a simple, painless test which involves swabbing the inside of the cheek and gum. Free HIV tests are offered by most county health departments and clinics. Testing also can be obtained through health care providers and HIV home tests kits are sold at many drug stores.

Individuals who wish to get tested may choose from both anonymous and confidential HIV testing sites. With anonymous testing, a person does not provide his or her name, but receives an identifying number. Anonymous testing is available through many local health departments and at many community–based sites throughout the State. Confidential testing is just what it sounds like–although participants provides their names, patient confidentiality is protected by law.

"No one should be afraid to get tested for HIV," Dr. Novello said. "Remember, this virus knows no racial, ethnic, age or gender boundaries. Whether you are white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American or mixed race, you are not exempted from being infected. The sooner you take the test, the sooner you can take control. You will not only have the information you need to make important decisions about your health, but you will learn how to protect yourself and others from infection as well. If you are pregnant and test positive for HIV, you can start taking medicine that will help reduce the chances that your baby will be infected. Remember, if you have unprotected sex or share needles with someone who is infected with HIV, you can become infected. In the final analysis, it is what you do, not who you are, that puts you at risk for HIV. So please, if in doubt, get tested."

Dr. Novello said that persons should get tested for HIV if they have ever:

  • had unprotected sex, especially with someone who has ever injected drugs.
  • shared needles or works to inject drugs (even insulin or steroids).
  • shared needles for piercing or tattooing.
  • had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • had many sex partners.

To learn more about HIV and AIDS and where you can get an anonymous or confidential HIV test, call:
New York State HIV/AIDS Hotline 1–800–541–AIDS
Spanish 1–800–233–SIDA
Deaf/TDD 1–800–369–AIDS
New York City HIV/AIDS Hotline 1–800–TALKHIV