September 14, 2000

Gannett HIV Tests No Longer Anonymous

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Cornell students and staff can no longer be tested anonymously for the HIV virus by Cornell University Health Services according to a new Public Health Law passed by the state of New York.

The new measure requires all health care providers to report the names of those who test positive for the AIDS-causing virus to the New York State Health Department.

Health officials claim the new law will aid efforts in stemming the spread of the disease by identifying partners at risk and by stastically tracking HIV incidences. Such measures already exist for other sexual tran As required by law, Gannett implemented the changes in June. Strict confidentiality has replaced anonymity, whereby individual tests were identified only by number.

HIV test results are kept in patients’ confidential medical records, as are results from tests for other sexually transmitted diseases.

HIV-related medical records are still protected, though, both by Gannett Health Center’s internal confidentiality policy and by the New York State HIV Confidentiality Law.

Such records can only be released to those who need the information to provide medical care, the Health Department (which must protect the information), or with the specific written consent of the individual, said Sharon Dittman, Associate Director of Community Relations for Gannett.

The law, however, does require Gannett to inform people that, if they test positive, they will be asked to identify and provide contact information for those who have had sexual / needle contact with them.

According to the Health Department, this provision gives the maximum number of infected people the opportunity to seek treatment.

Anonymous testing can only benefit those testing positive who take the initiative to seek out care, said Dittman. Confidential testing, however, allows health care providers to follow up with people who test positive and to arrange prompt medical treatment and support, she noted.

“Years ago if a person tested positive for HIV, there was little that could be done