September 1, 2010
Change in state law requires health professionals to offer voluntary HIV tests to patients 13 to 64 years old. New law also simplifies informed consent process, allowing for verbal consent in some circumstances.
Voluntary HIV testing is now part of routine medical care in the state of New York. As of today, due to a change in New York's State Public Health Law, New York residents receiving health services at most medical facilities should now expect to be offered a voluntary HIV test. With limited exceptions, the new State law requires health care professionals to offer all patients between the ages of 13 to 64 a voluntary HIV test. The law applies to anyone receiving treatment for a non-life-threatening condition in a hospital, a hospital emergency department or a primary care setting, such as a doctor's office or outpatient clinic.
The new law also simplifies the process for consenting to a voluntary HIV test. Under the state's old law, patients had to provide specific written consent before receiving a test. The newly amended law lets patients give oral consent if the test will produce results within an hour. The patient's consent must be documented in the patient's medical record, and the provider must share seven specified points of information about HIV. Patients must still provide written consent for HIV tests that don't yield results within an hour, but the process has been simplified. Consent for HIV testing can now be included in a patient's general consent for routine medical care, as long as the consent form lets patients opt out of HIV testing.
"This State law will have its greatest impact here in New York City, where more than 107,000 residents are living with HIV/AIDS and thousands more do not know they are infected," said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. "These people may not be receiving the care they need and may be unknowingly infecting their partners. If you are not offered an HIV test the next time you visit a health care provider and you want to know your status, ask for it."
Statewide, a third of HIV-positive people learn their status only after reaching advanced stages of infection. In 2006, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended routine testing so that infected people could get diagnosed earlier and take steps to preserve their own health and protect others. With this revision of the State Public Health Law, New York joins the 45 states that have acted on this important recommendation.
Under the new law, providers must link people with positive test results to care and treatment if they consent. The requirements apply to physicians and physician assistants, internal medicine providers, family medicine and pediatric practitioners, primary care obstetrician-gynecologists, nurse practitioners and midwives.
"Past New York City initiatives have highlighted the benefits of routine HIV testing," said New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane, the legislation's prime sponsor. "The Health and Hospitals Corporation's pilot testing project and the Health Department's 'Bronx Knows' initiative both showed that when HIV testing becomes a routine part of medical care, the number of people who know their status increases and the stigma surrounding HIV and HIV testing declines. With this law now in effect, the whole state of New York should start to experience those benefits."
"We hope New Yorkers will take advantage of this law and view HIV testing as part of routine, quality medical care," said Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner for the Health Department's Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. "We all need to know our status, and the only way to know it is to get tested."
Governor David Paterson signed S8227 into law on July 30, 2010. The legislation amended New York State Public Health Law Articles 21 and 27-F that govern HIV testing and confidentiality in the state. People under 18 do not need parental consent to be tested for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Physicians in New York City are required to report positive diagnoses to the NYC Health Department, and laboratories are required to report HIV-positive cases to the New York State Health Department. But like all other medical information, HIV tests results -- whether positive or negative -- are kept strictly confidential in accordance with the law.
Any New York City resident can get a free HIV test at one of the Health Department's STD or TB clinics. For a complete list of locations throughout the city, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/health/hivtesting.