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Cuomo says Access to HIV Treatment Critical for Youth

In 2013, only 48 percent of HIV+ 13- to 24-year-olds had suppressed viral loads. (PAHO/flickr.com)
In 2013, only 48 percent of HIV+ 13- to 24-year-olds had suppressed viral loads. (PAHO/flickr.com)
February 19, 2016

NEW YORK - Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants minors to be able to get treatment for HIV without parental consent.

Under current state law, people younger than 18 can be tested for HIV without telling their parents, but unlike other sexually transmitted infections, minors who test positive for HIV need a parent's consent to receive treatment. Lillian Rivera, director of advocacy and capacity building for the Hetrick Martin Institute, said that can put some youth at greater risk.

"We’ve known young people who have had the experience of not even being HIV-positive, but families thinking that they have HIV and throwing them out of their homes," she said.

As part of his effort to end AIDS in New York by 2020, Cuomo is asking the Legislature to expand the exemption from parental consent to include HIV treatment.

Treatment for HIV can suppress the virus to undetectable levels. But surveys indicate that less than half of HIV-positive New Yorkers ages 13 to 24 have suppressed viral loads. The rate of new infections, especially among Black and Latino gay and bisexual young people, remains high, Rivera said.

"This move really gives young people the opportunity to take control of their health care and make choices that are going to be healthy for them in managing HIV," she said.

Cuomo also has proposed that the new legislation include providing HIV-preventive services such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, known as "PrEP," to minors. However, Rivera said, removing the parental consent requirement for HIV treatment isn’t the only remaining obstacle. Many young people are covered by a parent’s health insurance.

"We don’t have regulations around confidentiality when it comes to that sharing of information, and parents right now have free access to that information," she said. "So, I think that’s a huge barrier."

The governor’s office has said that once a proposed bill is introduced, its hope is that it will pass by June.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY