End of session hopes for HIV testing bill

At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, a diagnosis of HIV was considered a death sentence. Thanks to medical research and development, people with HIV or AIDS can live long and fulfilling lives.

Wednesday was Long Term Survivors Day, which is intended to honor those still living with the disease and raise awareness of the needs of this community.

New York and Nevada are the only two states in the country that do not conform to the CDC guidelines for opt-out testing for HIV screenings, which Perry Junjulas, a long-term survivor and executive director of the Albany Damien Center, finds unacceptable .

“When I found out I was HIV positive, it taught me to take care of myself. It taught me and allowed me to use the medications that came out. And so the fact that we're almost keeping this from people from me is a crime,” Junjulas said.

According to CDC data, one in seven people nationwide don't know they have the disease. Furthermore, a study by the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute found that 18% of new HIV diagnoses were accompanied by a concurrent diagnosis of AIDS. Earlier testing could lead to earlier treatment options and better outcomes.

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal has been floating around the Capitol for years and with the session ending this week, the clock is ticking to get across the finish line. The bill requires notice that an HIV test will be administered, but that it would be voluntary and would provide information about pre- and post-exposure medications known as PrEP or PEP.

Hoylman-Sigal, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement that New York's current law is “outdated” and added that “knowledge is power and that is truly the case in the fight against HIV/AIDS .”

According to the senator's office, they are “hopeful” that the proposal will receive a full vote and pass on Thursday. If the bill passes the Senate, it will be sent to the governor's office for signature or veto.

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