August 2, 2010
Gov. David Paterson has signed into law two bills designed to encourage HIV testing and shield participants in needle-exchange programs (NEPs).
One law, which takes effect Sept. 1, makes HIV testing routine in all health care settings for patients ages 13 to 64. It lets patients agree to HIV screening as part of their general consent to treatment, eliminating the requirement for separate written consent.
"The enactment of this bill represents a significant step forward in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic," Paterson said. "By making HIV testing a routine part of health care, this legislation will increase HIV testing rates, letting people learn their status and begin treatment at an earlier stage, which can significantly improve the length and quality of life and help reduce transmission of the disease."
Paterson also signed legislation stating that persons participating in an NEP will not be subject to arrest for drug possession based on residue in their syringes. The law reconciles criminal laws with health laws so police will not discourage NEPs.
"The success of [NEPs] has been repeatedly verified to be instrumental in reducing the transmission of blood-borne diseases," Paterson said. "I proposed this legislation to prevent people from being arrested unnecessarily, thus ensuring that syringes users are not deterred from participating in these important programs."