New York State began implementation of this law on June 1, 2000. These are the basic facts about the new law. If you have additional questions or would like updates on new developments with this law, call the New York City Department of Health AIDS Hotline at 1-800-TALK-HIV.
- What is this new law about, and what will it do?
The new law requires doctors and laboratories to tell the Health Department about new cases of HIV infection and HIV illness, along with AIDS cases as they do now. It also requires doctors to discuss with their HIV infected patients those whom they may have exposed to HIV infection through sex or needle sharing. The Health Department or physicians can then notify people who are at risk about where to get counseling, testing, and treatment if they are infected.
- What is the value of this new law?
Knowing more about who is infected with HIV will help us to create and target programs for medical care and for the prevention of more infections. Through notifying partners, more people will become aware of their HIV risk and receive HIV counseling and testing. They can get treatment sooner if they are infected or take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones if they are not.
- Is it still a good idea to get an HIV test if I don't know if I am infected?
YES. There are very important reasons to get tested. If you are infected, you can get treatment that can help you live a longer, healthier life. If you are not infected, you can get information about how to stay that way.
- Who should get tested?
You should get tested if you've ever had sex without a latex condom or ever used needles to shoot drugs, steroids, or for piercing or tattooing. Women should get tested if they are pregnant or planning to get pregnant because there is medicine that can reduce the chance that a woman will pass HIV on to her baby.
- How can I get an HIV test?
Your doctor can give an HIV test. Or you can get tested free of charge at a testing site operated by New York City or New York State. For information about these sites in New York City, call 1-800-TALK-HIV, or 1-800-541-AIDS.
- If my doctor tells the Department of Health that I have HIV infection, what will happen to that information?
By law, that information can only be used, without disclosing individual names, to help understand the HIV epidemic in New York City.
- If I am HIV infected and see a counselor or case manager at a social service agency, will that counselor have to report my name to the Department of Health?
NO. Under the new law, the only people who have to report cases of HIV infection or HIV-related illnesses are doctors and other individuals who make medical diagnoses or laboratories that perform diagnostic tests. Other service providers are not required to report any information about their clients under this law.
- If my name and the fact that I have HIV infection are reported to the Department of Health, will that information be shared with other government agencies?
NO. Under the new law, information about people who are HIV-infected is ONLY to be used for HIV surveillance and partner notification purposes. Information will NOT be disclosed to other government or private agencies like the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), welfare, insurance companies, or landlords.
- What will happen if I am HIV infected and I give my doctor or the Health Department names of those with whom I have had sex or shared needles?
The information may be used by your doctor or the Health Department to help your partners understand their risk for HIV, how to prevent the spread of HIV, and where they can get counseling, testing, and treatment if they are HIV-infected.
- Should I give the name(s) of my partner(s) to my doctor or the Health Department?
YES. If you haven't told your partner(s) directly, it is important to identify those individuals to your doctor or the Health Department so they can advise those persons of their risk of HIV infection.
- Am I legally obligated to reveal the names of those with whom I have had sex or shared needles?
It is the right thing to do but you are not legally obligated to reveal names. Individuals cannot be punished if they choose not to disclose the names of their partners to a doctor or public health worker. However, it is important for all HIV- infected individuals to consider their ethical obligation to let others know of their possible exposure to HIV.
- If I discuss my sexual partners with my doctor or a public health worker, will they be told that I identified them?
NO. The new law says that when people are notified that they may be at risk for HIV infection, they are never to be given the name of the patient who identified them as a sexual partner.
- Can I still get tested without giving my name?
YES. You can get anonymous testing through testing sites operated by New York City and New York State. At these sites, you do not have to give your name. Instead, you are given a code number to use when you return to receive your test results. For sites where you can get anonymous testing in New York City, call 1-800-TALK-HIV.
- If I want to make sure my sexual partners know that they are at risk, how can I do that?
The best way is to tell them directly. However, if you are not comfortable doing this, discuss your personal situation with your doctor or with the counselor who conducted your HIV test. They can help you inform your partner(s). Additionally, the Health Department offers assistance through its Contact Notification Assistance Program (CNAP) at (212) 693-1419.
- If I am HIV infected, where can I go for treatment?
There are many medical providers who offer high quality HIV care throughout New York City. To get the names of providers near you, call the AIDS Hotline at 1-800-TALK-HIV.
- What if I don't have enough money to pay for HIV medical care and I don't have insurance?
Most people in New York City who don't have insurance or Medicaid can get HIV care and medication paid for through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) or the Ryan White CARE Services Program. For additional information about Ryan White CARE Services, call 1-800-TALK-HIV, for information about ADAP and to find out how to enroll, call 1-800-542-2437.
- What happens if I test HIV positive and someone finds out and discriminates against me?
Discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS (by landlords, employers, medical staff, or other service providers) is illegal. If you believe that someone has discriminated against you or revealed your HIV status illegally, you can file a complaint. Call either the New York State Division of Human Rights at (212) 870-8624 or the New York City Commission on Human Rights at (212) 306-7500.
These are the basic facts about the new law. If you have additional questions or would like updates on new developments with this law or other HIV/AIDS issues, call the New York City Department of Health AIDS Hotline at 1-800-TALK-HIV.
For more information about HIV/AIDS, call 1-800-TALK-HIV.