FAQs

Basic Information

What are HIV and AIDS?

Who is at risk for getting infected with HIV?

Transmission

How is HIV transmitted?

Does everyone who is exposed to HIV get infected?

Why is injection drug use a high-risk activity for HIV infection?

Is a condom 100% safe in preventing HIV infection?

Can a person get HIV by kissing?

Can a person get HIV from body piercing, ear piercing or tattoo needles?

Can mosquitoes transmit HIV?

Can HIV be transmitted in swimming pools or hot tubs?

Can HIV be transmitted through bites?

Testing

What kinds of antibody tests are available?

When does a person need to be tested?

How soon after infection can HIV be detected?

Where can people get HIV counseling and testing?

Risk Reduction

Is there a way to ensure that HIV is not transmitted sexually?

Will use of a condom during sex reduce the risk of HIV infection?

How can someone using injectable drugs eliminate or reduce his/her risk of HIV infection?

Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the symptoms of HIV infection?

When does HIV become AIDS?

What are the new treatments for HIV?

How is HIV infection treated?

What is the connection between HIV and TB?

What do people with HIV need to know about hepatitis?

How can people with HIV pay for their medical care?

Will people with HIV on Medicaid be required to join a managed care program?

How can people learn about experimental treatment?

Children and Adolescents

How do children get infected with HIV?

What risk does interacting with brothers, sisters or other children pose to the child with HIV?

If a child has HIV, should school personnel be told?

Can a child get HIV through a school yard fight or a contact sport like football?

Adolescents Only

How old do you have to be to give your consent to take an HIV test?

If an adolescent gets tested for HIV, will his/her parents(s) or guardians(s) be told test result?

Human Rights

Are the laws in New York State to protect the confidentiality of people with HIV and AIDS?

Can an employer require that a job applicant be tested for HIV?

Can job activities be limited/changed or can a person be fired because having HIV or AIDS?

Can people with HIV infection and/or AIDS be denied health, disability or life insurance?

Is it legal for insurance companies to test applicants for HIV without their knowledge?

Is it required that confidential HIV test result be included in medical records?

Is it legal for health care providers to test patients for HIV without their knowledge or consent?

Does a parent have the right to have his/her child tested?

Can hospital or ambulance workers refuse to care for a person with HIV/AIDS?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. Over time, most people infected with HIV become less able to fight off life-threatening infections and cancers. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is that last stage of HIV disease. Doctors make the AIDS diagnoses based on a set of symptoms and conditions identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Return to Top
Who is at risk for getting infected with HIV?
A person of any age, sex, race, ethnic group, religion, economic background or sexual orientation can become infected with HIV if he/she participates in unprotected sex or needle-sharing activities with someone who is infected with HIV. Women with HIV can also pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery or by breastfeeding. Anyone who has had unprotected sex (sex without a latex condom) since the mid-1970s and/or shared needles or works may have been exposed to HIV. All people infected with HIV can pass the virus to others. This is true whether or not people know they are infected and whether or not they have HIV-related symptoms or an AIDS diagnosis.
Return to Top
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretion and breast milk. This means that HIV contained in one of these fluids must get into the bloodstream by direct entry into a vein, a break in the skin or through mucous linings, such as the eyes, mouth, nose, vagina, rectum or penis. Other body fluids such as urine, saliva, vomit, etc., do not pose a risk unless visible blood is present.
HIV is not easily transmissible. Unlike most viral infections—colds, flu, measles, etc., HIV is not transmitted through sneezing, coughing, eating or drinking from common utensils or merely being around a person with HIV infection. HIV is not transmitted through air, water food or casual contact such as handshaking, hugging, or use of restrooms and drinking fountains, etc. Casual contact with people who have HIV infections does not place others at risk. No cases have ever been found where HIV has been transmitted through casual contact with a household member, relative, co-worker or friend.
Return to Top
Does everyone who is exposed to HIV get infected?
No. Infection with HIV may depend on how the virus enters the body and the amount of virus that enters the body. But it is important to know that infection may occur after one exposure to HIV infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions. Exposure can occur during unprotected sex or sharing injection drug needles or "works."
Return to Top
Why is injection drug use a high-risk activity for HIV infection?
Small amounts of blood from a person infected with HIV may stay in the "works" used to inject drugs (needles, syringes, cotton, cookers, water or other equipment) and can be injected into the bloodstream of the next person who uses the equipment.
Any drug injection activity where equipment is shared with person who has HIV or whose HIV status is unknown is high- risk. This includes injecting drugs into veins (IV), in the muscles or under the skin.
>Used needles and works may also be packaged as new and sold on the street and can transmit HIV if someone with HIV used them.
Return to Top
Is a condom 100% safe in preventing HIV infection?
No. Condoms are not 100% safe, especially if they are not used consistently and correctly. However, latex condoms used during sex can reduce the risk of HIV infection since they minimize direct contact with semen, blood and vaginal secretions (fluids known to carry the virus). When using a lubricant latex condom, always use a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y jelly. DO NOT use oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline or hand lotion, because they weaken latex condoms and cause them to break.
The new polyurethane condoms are intended for latex sensitive users only. The risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV infection are not known for this type of condom.
The actual protection provided by condoms can vary widely and is affected by such factors as storage, handling, proper use, or quality control by the manufacturer. In general, the rate of condom failure during anal sex is greater than for vaginal or oral sex. It is safest to avoid anal, vaginal or oral sex unless it is known for certain, through an HIV antibody test, that one's partner is not infected. Natural lambskin condoms are not effective protection against HIV because they allow the virus to pass through.
Return to Top
Can a person get HIV by kissing?
There has been one reported case of HIV transmission where a woman became infected by deep kissing a man with AIDS. The man reported his gums often bled after brushing and flossing his teeth and that after this activity, the couple often engaged in deep kissing and protected sex. Although HIV transmission most likely occurred during deep kissing, it was probably the blood in the man's saliva, not his saliva alone, that caused the infection. Both the man and the women had gum disease which may have contributed to the woman becoming infected. Trace amounts of HIV have been found in the saliva of some people with AIDS. However, to date there have been no cases of HIV transmission through exposure to saliva alone. Casual kissing, such as between parents and children, has not transmitted HIV.
Return to Top
Can a person get HIV from body piercing, ear piercing or tattoo needles?
So far, no AIDS cases have been linked with any body part piercing or tattooing. However, to guard against possible infection, all needles or equipment used for these procedures should be new or sterilized between uses, and new unused ink should be used.
Return to Top
Can mosquitoes transmit HIV?
No. Studies have shown that mosquitoes, other insects, or rodents play no role in the transmission of HIV to humans.
Return to Top
Can HIV be transmitted in swimming pools or hot tubs?
No. There are no cases of HIV transmission through swimming pools or hot tubs. The virus is killed by the normal levels or chlorine used to disinfect public swimming pools, saunas or hot tubs.
Return to Top
Can HIV be transmitted through bites?
While it is not a likely occurrence, it is possible to a person with HIV to transmit the virus by biting another person if very specific circumstances exist. The person who has HIV must have visible blood in his or her mouth and must break the skin of the uninfected person. The break in the skin would allow the infected blood to enter the other person's bloodstream. It is important to know that this is consistent with the way HIV is transmitted, through blood to blood contact. Saliva, however, is not a factor in HIV transmission.
Return to Top
What kinds of antibody tests are available?
At the current time, there are HIV antibody tests that can be performed on blood and oral fluids (not saliva). Most HIV antibody testing is done in doctor's offices, at clinics, and at anonymous or confidential testing sites. Before the test is done, a counselor, health care provider or doctor will discuss the test and review the risks for getting HIV. The test is done and the individual must return at a later date to discuss the test result and the recommended next steps.
There is one HIV antibody collection kit that can be purchased in pharmacies and other stores for home use. With this test, a lancet is used to obtain a small amount of blood from a finger. The sample is then sent to the company for processing. For this kind of antibody test, individuals call the company to get the test result using an anonymous code number.
Return to Top
When does a person need to be tested?
People should be tested if they are worried they might have some risk of exposure to HIV. People should be tested if they engaged in behaviors in the past that might have placed them at risk of HIV exposure. Partners considering pregnancy or women who are already pregnant should also be tested for HIV.
Return to Top
How soon after infection can HIV be detected?
Most people infected with HIV develop antibody levels high enough to be detected by the HIV antibody test within a month. Almost everyone who is infected will have a positive antibody test within 3 months. All people infected with HIV, whether or not they have yet developed enough antibodies to be detected by the test, can spread the virus to others through unprotected sex and needle sharing activities. Pregnant women with HIV can also pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery or through breastfeeding.
Return to Top
Where can people get HIV counseling and testing?
There are two main counseling and testing options in New York State.
Anonymous HIV antibody testing is provided free of charge by the NYS Department of Health, NYC Department of Health, and by some county health departments. At anonymous testing sites, it is not necessary to use a name or other identifying information. People tested are given a code number, which they use to get their test results when they return. An anonymous test result is not recorded in a person's medical record and may not be useful for accessing HIV-related services. People who test HIV positive at one of New York State's anonymous sites can change their anonymous test result to a "confidential" status so they can access HIV-related medical care and support services without waiting for a second HIV test. If a person has clinical symptoms of HIV or other lab tests that indicate HIV infection, retesting is usually not necessary.
Confidential HIV antibody testing if offered by many local health department clinics, community health centers, hospitals, family planning clinics and private doctors. Identifying information is given to the test counselor, health care provider or doctor and the test result is entered into the person's medical record.
At any of the sites described above, people should be counseled about testing options and procedures, the meaning of their test results, partner notification, and actions they can take to further reduce their exposure to the virus and to eliminate or reduce the spread of HIV to others. The confidentiality of all HIV-related information is protected by New York State law.
For information about counseling and testing call:
1-800-825-5448 NYC AIDS Hotline
1-800-872-2777 NYS AIDS Hotline
1-800-233-SIDA NYS Spanish language AIDS Hotline
1-800-369-2437 TDD (telecommunication device for the deaf)
(585) 275-0526 Strong Memorial Hospital AIDS Center
Return to Top
Is there a way to ensure that HIV is not transmitted sexually?
The only way to ensure that HIV is not transmitted sexually is by not being sexually active—abstinence. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as 100% safe sex, although the use of a latex male condom or a female condom can make sexual activity safer (in other words, reduce, but not entirely eliminate the risk). If an individual wants to entirely eliminate the possibility of sexual transmission of HIV, abstinence is the surest method.
Return to Top
Will use of a condom during sex reduce the risk of HIV infection?
Yes. Use of a latex male condom or a female condom during sex can reduce the risk of HIV infection by reducing the chance of getting semen, blood and vaginal secretions (fluids known to carry the virus) into the body. Condoms can reduce, but not entirely eliminate the risk of HIV infection. The primary reason that condoms sometimes fail to prevent HIV infection is due to incorrect or inconsistent use. Consistent means using a condom with each act of intercourse. Correct use includes using adequate water-based lubrication with the condom, such as glycerine or lubricating jellies, to prevent breakage. Oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, cold creams, hand lotion, or baby oil can weaken the condom, causing it to break. Some condoms are prelubricated, others are not. It is preferable to use a lubricated condom to prevent breakage. If the condom is not prelubricated, an application of a water-based lubricant may be placed outside the condom to prevent breakage.
Return to Top
How can someone using injectable drugs eliminate or reduce his/her risk of HIV infection?
  • Drug treatment programs: Risk of infection from used syringes can be completely avoided by entering a drug treatment program and ending use of injected drugs. Drug treatment programs are available throughout New York State to assist an individual in reaching recovery. To find a drug treatment program, call 1-800-522-5353.
  • Syringe exchange programs: Risk of infection can also be avoided by using a new syringe for each injection and by not sharing syringes or works. Injection drug users may obtain unused syringes by participating in one of the syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange programs have been authorized to give syringes and needles to injection drug users without a prescription in order to prevent the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases.
  • Cleaning needles and works: Risk of infection can be reduced by always cleaning injection equipment (needles and works) immediately after use or just before reuse, even if it seems to be packaged as new.
FIRST, wash out the syringe with clean water by drawing the water up through the needle to the top of the syringe, shake the set then squirt out. DO NOT REUSE THIS WATER. Repeat at least 3 times.
NEXT, draw undiluted bleach up through the needle to the tope of the syringe and shake the set. Leave the bleach in the syringe for at least 30 seconds and squirt out. DO NOT REUSE THIS BLEACH. Repeat this entire step at least 3 times.
LAST, rinse the syringe and needle with clean water. Draw the clean water up through the needle to the top of the syringe, shake the set and squirt it out. DO NOT REUSE THIS WATER. Repeat this step 3 times.
In addition to steps A, B and C, one can improve cleaning effectiveness by taking the set apart, removing the plunger from the barrel and soaking them in bleach for at least 30 seconds.
NEVER shoot the bleach.
DO NOT reuse the cotton, water or cooker. However, if the cooker must be reused, soak it in bleach for at least 30 seconds and then rinse it with clean water. Since bleach loses its effectiveness with exposure to light, store all bleach for cleaning needles and works in a container that does not let light pass through.
NEVER assume a syringe is new, even if it seems to be packaged as new.
Return to Top
What are the symptoms of HIV infection?
Many people infected with HIV have no symptoms at all and may be unaware that they carry the virus. Some people may develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms that disappear after a few days or weeks following infection. Others may have persistent swollen glands. The earlier HIV infection is detected, the sooner medical treatment can begin, which may help people stay healthier longer.
Many of the symptoms of advancing HIV disease are similar to other health problems not related to HIV. The following symptoms should prompt a medical visit to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
Symptoms include:
  • swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin;
  • continued fever or night sweats;
  • weight loss of more than 10 pounds which is not due to dieting or increased physical activity;
  • heavy, continual dry cough that is not from smoking or that has lasted too long to be a cold or flu;
  • increasing shortness of breath;
  • continuing bouts of diarrhea;
  • thrush, a thick whitish coating on the tongue or in the throat, which may be accompanied by a sore throat;
  • recurring vaginal yeast infections;
  • unexplained skin rashes, like psoriasis or seborrhea;
  • herpes infections that last longer than usual
Return to Top
When does HIV become AIDS?
People with HIV are diagnosed as having AIDS if their CD4 cell count falls below 200, or if they develop any of the serious conditions associated with HIV infection. (CD4 cells are immune cells that are damage by HIV). These conditions include a number of unusual infections and cancers, as well as severe weight loss or wasting; and brain and nervous system disorders.
Return to Top
What are the new treatments for HIV?
A number of new drugs to treat HIV have been approved, including a group of drugs called protease inhibitors. When these newer drugs are combined with earlier drug treatments, the level of virus in the blood can fall so low that it cannot be detected by a viral load test. This does not mean that the virus is gone from the body, just that there is so little of it in the blood that the test cannot detect it. When the level of the virus is this low, treatments may work longer and the immune system can begin to repair some of the damage done by HIV. It is important to remember that even if a person with HIV has an "undetectable" viral load, he/she can still transmit HIV to others.
While the new treatments are not a cure, they can extend life and improve health, especially for people with AIDS. It is very important that the new treatments be taken exactly as prescribed. Missing or delaying just a few doses can lead to resistance, meaning that the drug will no longer work. People who become resistant to one drug may be resistant to other drugs they have never taken, so it's important that people with HIV learn how to take their medications correctly.
Return to Top
How is HIV infection treated?
  1. Antivirals (drugs that stop or slow HIV): Currently, there are 11 drug approved that fight HIV. These include the
    • "nucleoside:" AZT (or ZDV), ddC, ddI, d4T, 3TC
    • the "non-nucleosides:" delavirdine and nevirapine
    • the protease inhibitors: saquinavir, ritonavir, indinavir and nelfinavir.
    These drugs are used in combinations of 2, 3 or 4 to best fight the virus.
  2. Preventive medications: If a person's CD4 count falls below 200, drugs are used to prevent serious illnesses, such as PCP (pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). PCP is the most common life-threatening illness for people with AIDS, and can be effectively prevented with a common medication. Since the CD4 count can fall below 200 before any symptoms appear, it is important that people with HIV get regular CD4 counts so preventive treatment can begin as soon as needed. Preventive treatment for other illnesses, such as MAC (mycobacterium avium complex), is recommended if the CD4 count falls before 50.
  3. Treatment for HIV-related illnesses: Much progress have been made in treating the various infections and conditions that occur in people with HIV. New treatments for AIDS-related cancers and other conditions have been approved. Combining these treatments with the new antivirals can mean better health for people with AIDS.
  4. Healthy living: Good health practices can play an important role in the treatment of HIV. Proper diet with food safety precautions, appropriate use of vitamins, exercise (both aerobic and muscle-building), regular sleep habits, stress management and avoidance of substance use are all important parts of living healthy with HIV.
Return to Top
What is the connection between HIV and TB?
TB is one of the many diseases that can often be kept under control by the immune system. About 10% of people with a normal immune system who have the TB germ will get sick with active TB. But a person with HIV who has the TB germ and a weakened immune system is much more likely to develop active TB disease. That's why it is very important for people with HIV to get tested for TB. Active TB can be prevented by taking medication before symptoms start. TB symptoms are similar to those of other HIV-related diseases. They include: coughing, shortness of breath, weakness, feeling sick, coughing up blood, weight loss, fever and night sweats. TB is curable in most cases, but untreated active TB can be spread to others by coughing.
Return to Top
What do people with HIV need to know about hepatitis?
People with HIV should ask their doctors to do tests for hepatitis A, B and C. Those who do not have hepatitis A, B or C should talk to their doctor about avoiding exposure to these hepatitis viruses through sexual practices or needle sharing. Hepatitis infection may increase the viral load of a person with HIV, so people with HIV should talk to their doctor about their risk for hepatitis, and whether they should receive vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Return to Top
Where can people with HIV get medical care?
  1. Community health centers and private doctors: Many people have HIV receive their medical care from clinics or private doctors in their community. There are also special programs for children, adolescents and substance users. Most HIV clinics also provide case management to help people with HIV obtain the other services they need. (Click here to get a listing of HIV/AIDS information and services telephone numbers.)
  2. Hospitals and their clinics: The State Health Department has identified a number of hospitals as "Designated AIDS Centers" because they have developed specialized care programs for people with HIV infection and AIDS. AIDS Centers are required to coordinate the full range of medical services needed by patients with HIV and AIDS, including inpatient and outpatient care, home health care, dentistry and psychological counseling. Some AIDS Centers now have special units for women, children and adolescents with HIV and AIDS. These hospitals are also generally involved in HIV-related research programs. There are also hospitals that are not involved in HIV-related research programs. There are also hospitals that are not Designed AIDS Centers, but have considerable experience in treating HIV disease. The AIDS Clinic at Strong Memorial Hospital is a designated AIDS center.
  3. Skilled Nursing Facilities: The State Health Department has encouraged the development of HIV/AIDS nursing homes that provide medical care and other specialized services. For more information about skilled nursing facilities, call the New York State AIDS Institutes Chronic Care Section at (518) 474-8162. In New York City, call the Community Health Services at (212) 645-0875.
  4. Home care programs: Throughout the state, a number of AIDS home care programs provide nursing and other services at the homes of individuals who have AIDS-related illness.
  5. Day treatment programs: There are approximately 12 AIDS Day Treatment Programs in New York State that offer medical and nursing care, and substance abuse and related health services, to people with HIV who meet certain eligibility criteria.
Return to Top
How can people with HIV pay for their medical care?
Care for patients with HIV infection and AIDS is paid for by the same means as all medical care: the government (Medicaid or Medicare), private insurance companies and individuals. Most group health insurance plans cover HIV and AIDS medical treatment, although some have maximum allowances.
The State Medicaid Program pays for the drugs for persons on Medicaid. In addition, the State Health Department operates the HIV Uninsured Care Programs which offer free drugs, primary care and home care for people who do not qualify for Medicaid and who meet the program's income requirements. The HIV Uninsured Care Program can help people with no insurance or with partial insurance.
  1. ADAP Plus (Primary Care) pays for primary care services at enrolled clinics and hospital outpatient programs, drug treatment programs and private doctors' offices.
  2. ADAP Plus (Primary Care) pays for primary care services at enrolled clinics and hospital outpatient programs, drug treatment programs and private doctors' offices.
  3. HIV Home Care Program pays for home care services to individuals as ordered by their physician. For more information on HIV Uninsured Care Programs, call 1-800-542-2437 or TDD (518) 459-0121.
Return to Top
Will people with HIV on Medicaid be required to join a managed care program?
No, not until Special Needs Plans (SNPs) for persons with HIV infection are established. Currently, most managed care enrollment for persons on Medicaid in NYS is voluntary. However, with the approval of NYS's Partnership Plan by the Federal government, mandatory Medicaid managed care will be phased in over the next three years in NYS. In counties where mandatory Medicaid managed care is in place, people with HIV may choose to enroll in a managed care plan, but will not be required to do so until the SNPs are established. Then, people with HIV on Medicaid will be required to make a choice between a regular managed care plan or a SNP.
Return to Top
How can people learn about experimental treatment?
For information on clinical trials or new treatments for HIV in New York State and nearby areas, people can call the AIDS Treatment Data Network, which publishes the Experimental Treatment Guide, a directory of current clinical trials. The Network can help locate a specific clinical trial, and provides treatment education and information on community services for men, women and children. Call 1-800-734-7104 for more information.
Additional information on clinical trials in New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Philadelphia can be obtained from the AIDS Institute Experimental Treatments Info Line at 1-800-MEDS 4 HIV.
For information on national clinical trials, the AIDS Clinical Trial Information Services provides detailed information on many federally and privately sponsored clinical trials.
Call 1-800-TRIALS-A.
For information on local clinical trials, you can call Carol Greisberger, RN, at the AIDS Center at Strong Memorial Hospital at (585) 275-2740.
Return to Top
How do children get infected with HIV?
Most children infected with HIV got the virus from their infected mothers, before or during birth. It is also possible for her to pass the virus to her infant through breast milk. A mother infected with the virus can transmit it to her baby even if she does not have any HIV or AIDS-related symptoms. Studies indicate that approximately 15-25 percent, or 1 out of 4 babies born to mothers infected with HIV will become infected, if no treatment is given.
However, studies have shown that women with HIV who take AZT (also known as ZDV) during pregnancy can drop the rate of infection to their babies down to 1 out of 12. Some women with HIV take a combination of drugs, including AZT, for their own medical needs. If they become pregnant, they should discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of continuing these drugs during early pregnancy, and throughout their pregnancy.
A few children became infected from blood transfusions before the screening of the blood supply in mid-1985.
Return to Top
What risk does interacting with brothers, sisters or other children pose to the child with HIV?
A child whose immune system is damaged by HIV is more susceptible to certain infections. It can be helpful for the parents and doctor of a child with HIV to know if that child has been exposed to other children with infectious illnesses.
Return to Top
If a child has HIV, should school personnel be told?
It is not necessary or required that HIV-related information be shared with school personnel. However, it may be in the child's best interest for certain school personnel to be aware of a child's HIV infection. Decisions regarding disclosure and the type of educational setting needed for children with HIV infection or AIDS should be based on the behavior, neurodevelopmental level and physical condition of the child. These evaluations should be made on a confidential basis to protect the child against potential discrimination. The appropriate decision-makers would include the child's parent or guardian and doctor, with consultation from public health personnel and school officials, if necessary.
Return to Top
Can a child get HIV through a schoolyard fight or a contact sport like football?
It is highly unlikely that HIV transmission could occur in this manner. The external contact with blood that might occur in a sports injury is very different from direct entry of blood into the bloodstream which occurs from sharing needles or works.
Return to Top
How old do you have to be to give your consent to take an HIV test?
Any person, no matter what age, can consent to an HIV test, but the person must be able to understand:
  • what the HIV test is for
  • what the HIV-related test result means
  • available options for care and treatment
Return to Top
If an adolescent gets tested for HIV, will his/her parents(s) or guardians(s) be told test result?
Under limited circumstances, the parent or guardian of a minor can be told confidential HIV-related information if it necessary to provide timely care for minor. If it would not be in the minor's best interest to do so, as in a potentially abusive situation, HIV-related information should be kept confidential.
Return to Top
Are the laws in New York State to protect the confidentiality of people with HIV and AIDS?
Public Health Law-Article 27-F , the HIV Confidentiality Law, was enacted in 1989 in New York State. Agencies and individuals who provide health or social services as defined by the law, or receive HIV-related information through a signed release, are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of that information. People who feel that HIV-related information has been released without their consent may contact the New York State Department of Health Confidentiality Hotline at 1-800-962-5065 for the necessary information and forms of file a complaint. Unauthorized disclosure of confidential HIV-related information by health or social service employees is subject to civil and/or criminal penalties under the law. This law does allow disclosure of HIV-related information between members of a health care team or social service agency, for the care of the patient.
Since 1990, federal regulations established a specific process for disclosure of HIV-related information if in the course of providing service, an emergency response employee is placed at significant risk of HIV transmission. Emergency response employees include firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, and other professional emergency responders, paid or volunteer. The federal law does not, however, mandate HIV testing of patients to whom emergency response workers may have been exposed.
Return to Top
Can an employer require that a job applicant be tested for HIV?
No. Under the federal nondiscrimination laws, an employer may not require a job applicant to disclose his/her HIV status or to undergo an HIV test as a condition of employment.
Return to Top
Can job activities be limited/changed or can a person be fired because of having HIV or AIDS?
It is a violation of the State Human Rights Law to restrict an employee's duties fire them solely because of HIV infection or AIDS. In addition, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitation of employees with disabilities (including HIV infection/illness).
Return to Top
Can people with HIV infection and/or AIDS be denied health, disability or life insurance?
In New York State, health insurance (including hospital, medical, and surgical expense coverage) cannot be denied simply because the applicant is HIV positive. However, disability and life insurance companies are allowed to ask applicants if they have been diagnosed or treated for AIDS or ARC, and deny coverage or charge other than a standard premium for the policy based on the answer. While they may not ask if an applicant has ever had a positive HIV test, they can require an HIV test as part of the company's underwriting rules before issuing a policy. For more information, call the New York State Insurance Department at 1-800-342-3736.
Return to Top
Is it legal for insurance companies to test applicants for HIV without their knowledge?
No. Insurance companies must make the applicant aware they will be testing for HIV, provide general information to them and have the applicant sign a written informed consent.
Return to Top
Is it required that confidential HIV test result be included in medical records?
Yes. New York State Code, Rules and Regulations, Title X-Part 63, requires that confidential HIV-related information shall be recorded in the medical record and be readily accessible to provide proper care and treatment.
Return to Top
Is it legal for health care providers to test patients for HIV without their knowledge or consent?
New York State Code, Rules and Regulations, Title X-Part 63, requires pretest counseling and written informed consent before performing HIV testing. However, consent is not required if the test is being performed as part of mandatory comprehensive newborn screening, or the test is needed to process human body parts for transplants. Informed consent for the ordering of an HIV test is also not required by law in certain situations, which may not involve a health care provider: when testing is done for epidemiological purposes or the test is being performed on a deceased person to determine cause of death.
Written consent is not required if the test is being requested by an individual who has purchased an FDA-approved HIV home test kit.
Return to Top
Does a parent have the right to have his/her child tested?
Biological parents of children generally have the authority to consent to have HIV testing done for infants and very young children who do not have the ability to understand and make an informed decision about the test.
Return to Top
Can hospital or ambulance workers refuse to care for a person with HIV/AIDS?
No. Health care workers who refuse to care for a person with infection or AIDS may be subject to firing or other disciplinary action. Hospital and ambulance services have a legal responsibility to care for the sick and to assemble a staff capable of carrying out that mission. There is a need for ongoing education for all health care workers to ensure that they understand the potential routes of HIV transmission and follow recommended safety precautions.
Return to Top

More Information

For more information, or to make an appointment, please contact us at
(585) 275-0526.