2010-09-10 / Community

HIV Testing A Routine Part Of NY Health Care

Voluntary HIV testing is now part of routine medical care in the state of New York. As of this week, 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 and 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.

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