September 18, 2007
Beginning Nov. 1, suspects indicted for sex crimes such as rape in New York could be forced to undergo court-ordered HIV testing. Test results would be shared only with the alleged defendant and assault survivor, said Kevin Wright, Putnam County district attorney.
With the HIV test results in hand, a survivor could decide sooner whether to undergo post-exposure HIV prophylaxis to potentially prevent infection. Under current state law, an alleged assailant cannot be compelled to take an HIV test until after conviction.
The law empowers a court to compel a defendant to undergo HIV testing if it is determined such screening would benefit the victim medically or psychologically. It further requires that hospitals treating sexual assault survivors provide therapy and information about possible HIV exposure. Hospitals will be required to notify survivors that treatment could be reimbursed through the Crime Victims Board.
"We encourage victims to get tested for HIV and [STDs] regardless of the perpetrators' HIV results," said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. "It is important for victims to get medical attention following an attack, even if there are no obvious physical injuries," said Berkowitz, who praised the new law.