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Saying that current state regulations for HIV antibody testing are too cumbersome and actually discourage some people from testing, New York City health commissioner Thomas Friedan is calling for an overhaul of the guidelines, The New York Times reports. Under current state law, all patients must give written consent for an HIV antibody test, and those administering the test are required to tell patients the reasons why they may not want to consent to testing. Friedan is hoping to make HIV testing more a part of routine health screenings by removing the requirement of informing patients why they may not want to be tested and to allow patients to give verbal--instead of written--consent.
Friedan also is pushing for changes in state laws covering use of medical information. Under current laws, health department authorities are unable to use patient-specific medical data reported by laboratories to the departments for anything other than anonymous statistical analyses and reports. This prohibits health officials from being able to use that information to contact HIV patients who may require urgent care, or even could be dying, according to the lab data the departments receive. Friedan is calling for the laws to be amended to allow the health department workers to contact the doctors of patients for whom data suggest serious health complications.
Friedan's proposals met resistance at the New York State AIDS Advisory Council meeting this week. State senator Thomas Duane, a Manhattan Democrat, says there is still too much stigma associated with HIV to do away with privacy restrictions related to medical data or to move too quickly to change the state's HIV testing requirements. (Advocate.com)