December 1 is World AIDS Day. Thinking about that, I decided to focus this edition on HIV testing. Now you may think that this topic is not relevant to teenagers but that just isn’t so. In fact, the New York State Health Department informs that testing has occurred as young as twelve years of age. I decided to go through the Rapid HIV Antibody Test myself so that I could speak with experience about one form of testing and so I could know my status rather then just guess based on risk factors. This article will talk about that test, the important distinction between Anonymous and Confidential testing, and provide some contact information in case you want to talk with someone more about HIV or HIV testing.
I was tested at the Pride Center with the Rapid HIV Antibody Test administered through Project Reach which is a program within the Kaleida Health System. This testing is Confidential, which means that a Medical record chart is created that contains your name, birth date and test date as well as the test results. In this case the chart is kept at a Kaleida medical facility. The process took about 40 minutes and includes a pretest interview explaining the testing procedure and questions about risk factors and judgement issues, such as drinking and drug behaviors that may increase a person’s risk taking behavior. The test itself involves a lancet (pin prick) to a finger tip. A drop of blood is added to a solution in a vile and after 20 minutes an indicator on the vile shows either a positive or negative result. False negatives are exceedingly rare. Positive results are sent to a lab for further confirmation testing, though the test is generally accurate. A post test interview completes the process. If you test positive you are immediately given information and referrals as to the next steps to take. Some individuals are scared of even the small pin prick and so soon an oral swab test will also be available. Confidential testing is available for ages 14 on up without parental consent.
In anonymous testing, you are assigned a number and that number is all that identifies you from the testing through the results process. There is no record kept with identifying information about you. Anonymous testing is only through the New York State Health Department and is available to anyone who has the capacity to understand the procedure and results. As noted earlier, this can be as young as 12 years of age without parental consent. Counseling accompanies the process and relates to risk factors, understanding test results and related information and referral.
There are those who believe that it is best to avoid any identifying record of test results as a record will contain your name, birth date, test date, risk factors and test results. Though confidential information cannot be released without informed consent, there may still be some concern about medical record keeping and access to private information. If you have any concerns in this regard then anonymous testing is the best alternative.
Why get tested at all? If you have had any possible exposure through known risk factors and/or worry about your status then being tested is worth serious consideration. If you test negative then you can behave to protect your negative status. If you test positive you can learn about and appropriately respond to your positivity both medically, psychologically and behaviorally. You can also behave to prevent infecting others by learning more about how HIV is spread.
For further information on HIV, testing and referral contact:
1-800-962-5046 New York State Health Department, toll free number
847-8437 AIDS Community Services
852-7743 Pride Center of Western New York
847-4520 New York State Health Department
852-1142 Men of Color Health Awareness Project
831-2200 Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County, Inc.
205-0708 Planned Parenthood of Niagara County, Inc.
The Department of Health offers anonymous testing at the Gay and Lesbian Youth Services Drop-in Center four times a year. These test dates will be listed in the calendar of this website. If you can’t wait, The Mobile Health Unit of Planned Parenthood of Niagara falls and Buffalo and Erie County visits GLYS once each month./ These visits will also be on the calendar. PLease note that the Mobile Unit testing is confidential and not annonymous. Only the State Health Department can test anonymously.