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October 20, 2008

N.Y. Health Care Workers Challenge Testing Law

EMTs, paramedics, emergency room workers and other health care providers in New York are trying to change the state law that requires written consent before testing patients for HIV in the event that an accidental needle prick occurs, the Times Union reports. New York also does not permit HIV testing if the patient is unconscious or dead.

According to the article, Dr. John Janikas, a second-year resident in the Emergency Department of Albany Medical Center, accidentally pricked himself with a needle while working on a patient and his only option was to take a month-long regime of anti-HIV drugs (post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP). While taking the regimen, Janikas also suffered some of its side effects such as diarrhea, dehydration, gastrointestinal pain and weight loss.

The law prohibiting testing without consent emerged during the early years of the AIDS crisis as a measure to prevent HIV stigma. Back then AIDS advocacy groups supported the written consent law to protect patient privacy. But now, 35 states have adopted automatic testing after accidental exposure.

“Our goal is to make sure we are not giving toxic medicine to people who don’t need them and we are sending health care workers back out into the world knowing they’re safe,” says Michael Dailey, a regional emergency medical services director.

Search: needle pricks, New York, Albany Medical Center, PEP

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