New HIV law goes into effect in every New York State hospital in September.

August 27, 2010 3:15:28 PM PDT
Busy emergency rooms are about to become busier, at least for doctors and nurses. In September, a new law goes into effect in every New York State hospital. Health care workers will now have to ask every patient between ages 13 and 64 whether he or she wants to be tested now for HIV, the virus that causes aids.

"The HIV rates are not going down. There are 50000 cases in the U.S. and going up and this is a great way to diagnose people who may not know if they're infected," said Tucker Woods, a doctor at Long Island College Hospital.

The tests for infection are done on blood or saliva. Results come back in hours, not days. Negative tests are told to patients. Positive ones are followed with a blood test that takes a week for results. In the E-R, patients can refuse the test.

What about the 13-year old who comes to the emergency room with a sprained ankle? Dr. Woods says that he and his staff will wait until a parent or guardian arrives before they ask about HIV testing.

E-R's other than Long Island College may handle that situation differently. However, state law states they do not need parental consent. The test results stay on a person's medical record, but Dr. Woods feels that confidentiality rules will prevent others from knowing results. The E-R may be the only time someone sees a doctor in years.

We asked some people how they felt about the law.

"Maybe that's giving them the opportunity because some people don't know where to go," said one person.

"There are a lot of people out there, especially young people, who don't take the time and who think they're invincible," said another.

"If it's inside their bodies, they have a right to know in order to get proper treatment in order to save costs and save lives," another person said.

Save lives because modern drugs to treat an HIV infection have changed it from a death sentence into a chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma.

Some may be concerned that results can be hacked into. You can always say no. The cost of the test will be billed to the patient's insurance if they have it, and if they do not, there is no charge.