By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — CVPH Medical Center will offer HIV testing for patients ages 13 to 64 who utilize its Emergency Department beginning Oct. 1.
The service will be provided on a volunteer basis in response to statewide initiatives to enhance HIV education and reduce the potential spread of the virus that causes AIDS.
“New York has always been very proactive in emphasizing the need for HIV testing,” said Erica Wood, infection-prevention manager for the Medical Center. “We (at CVPH) want to do what we can to help people receive this kind of service.”
Tests completed at the Emergency Department will be included on the patient’s bill and may not be covered by insurance.
ALL CAN BE IMPACTED
The state revised its HIV-testing policies in 2010, emphasizing the need to offer it to anyone in the targeted age group.
Anyone receiving hospital or primary-care services must be asked if they want HIV testing unless their medical condition prohibits them from receiving the test or from consenting to the it.
“All people of all ages and all lifestyles can be impacted (by HIV infection),” Wood said.
In certain cases, the service can also be offered to those who are older than 64 and have participated in risky behaviors that increase the potential for contracting HIV.
CONSENT NOT NEEDED
The law allows for children 13 and older to receive HIV education and testing without the consent of a parent or guardian.
“We will ask the parent if we can have a moment alone with the child,” said Angela Neyer, a registered nurse in the CVPH Emergency Care Center, who helped author the hospital’s policy for HIV testing in there.
She estimated that 90 percent of the parents who accompany their teens to the Emergency Room “do respect that right.”
Staff will also assess a young person’s ability to comprehend HIV-related information and will not offer the test to those who do not have the capacity to consent without a parent’s support.
Before asking if a patient would be willing to be tested for HIV, Emergency Department staff will provide background information on the virus and how it can be transmitted through unprotected sex and from contact with the blood of someone infected with HIV, through sharing needles, for instance.
Staff will also talk about today’s treatment options for people infected with the virus.
“The biggest thing we want to get across is that this is a benefit for the patient, for loved ones and for us all,” Neyer said.
“We’ve come a long way since HIV was first identified,” Wood added. “With treatment, people can live long, productive lives, as long as we can detect (HIV infection) early enough.”
OTHER TEST OPTIONS
The preliminary information will also include tips on how to reduce the risk for HIV infection, as well as other options patients have for being tested.
For instance, the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York provides free and confidential HIV testing.
If a patient agrees to the test at CVPH, preliminary results are made available to the person within an hour. If the test comes back positive, the hospital will send the blood work to the state lab for a confirmation test, with results available within a few days.
“We do not give results over the phone, so we will ask the patient to come in for the result, confirmed or not,” Meyer said.
Positive results will also be forwarded to a physician of the patient’s choice to ensure that followup care is received.
The presence of HIV remains low across the North Country, but that does not make the necessity for testing any less important, Wood noted.
“It’s not where you live but how you live. If a person is on vacation and indulges in risky behavior, then that person can potentially come into contact with and spread the virus.”
Negative results confirm someone is not infected only if the person has not engaged in risky behaviors within the last three to six months. The virus often takes that much time to trigger antibodies in the person’s bloodstream.
The Emergency Department is prepared to go live with the new incentive on Oct. 1, but officials stress that people should not come there exclusively for an AIDS test but should contact the AIDS Council for services.
Email Jeff Meyers:
firstname.lastname@example.orgTO GET TESTED To receive confidential, free testing for the HIV virus, contact the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York at 563-2437 or 1-800-962-5065.