Frequently Asked Questions

Clinical Testing

The BVL serves as a Public Health reference lab for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) testing for New York state residents.  The specific clinical testing services we provide are listed in our clinical testing overview. 

If this is the first time submitting specimens to the laboratory or if you are unsure if you are able to submit specimens, call the laboratory for approval.  Testing should be ordered by a health care provider who is licensed to order clinical testing.  Test requisitions forms and instructions for collecting and shipping specimens are available in the Collection, Shipping and Reporting section of our website. 

There is no charge for testing performed on New York State residents.  For some testing services, specimen collection and shipping supplies are also provided free of charge. Contact the BVL for more information. 

For routine testing submissions, there is no need to contact the laboratory.  For non-routine testing (e.g. HIV-2 viral load, hepatitis C virus) or if you are new and have questions, contact the laboratory.

The fastest way to receive test results is through a secure account on the NYSDOH Health Commerce System (HCS).  See the instructions in the Collection, Shipping and Reporting section of the website for how to set up a HCS account and obtain permissions to access electronic HIV and HCV test results.  We also send out test results via first class mail within one working day of completing the testing.   If there are patient care issues where test results are critical, results may also be phoned or faxed.  In these cases, special arrangements must be made on a case by case basis with the approval of the BVL laboratory director.   

Every effort is made to test all specimens submitted to the BVL and report out results in a timely fashion. If the instructions for collecting and shipping specimens and completing the requisitions are followed, problems should be minimized. Here are some common problems that cause specimen to be unsatisfactory for testing:

  • Shipping problems: Specimens must be received in the timeframe specified in the collection instructions.  We recommend sending specimens by courier rather than the U.S. Postal Service.  Our laboratory is closed on state holidays.  Please keep this in mind when shipping specimens. 
  • Specimen problems:
    • Specimens must be collected in the appropriate blood collection tube.  The recommended tubes are listed in our collection instructions, however, other tubes may be acceptable.  Please contact the lab with questions.
    • Specimens must have adequate volume.  The minimum volume needed for testing is listed in our collection instructions. 
    • Specimens must be labeled correctly.  Include at least two separate patient identifiers on the tube.  These identifiers must match the identifiers on the requisition form exactly.  

Information problems: Be sure to completely fill out requisition form and send it with the specimen.  We recommend making a copy of the requisition form for your own records in case there are any questions.  Be sure that the submitter address and contact info are filled in so we can contact you with any questions. 

Yes, provided there is enough information on the specimen to identify it unambiguously and match it to the requisition. The BVL secure FAX number is: 518-473-0008.

Newborns from mothers who are HIV antibody positive will have maternal antibodies in their blood; a positive antibody result is evidence of risk, but not of infection. It is necessary to perform testing on the infant’s blood using a nucleic acid test that detects HIV directly to confirm or rule out infection. It takes repeated testing scheduled over 4-6 months following birth before in order to exclude infection in a perinatally exposed infant. The NYSDOH strongly recommends that all New York State birth facilities use the pediatric HIV testing services at the Wadsworth Center’s Bloodborne Viruses Laboratory. For more information, see the New York State clinical guidelines on Diagnosis of Pediatric HIV Infection in HIV-Exposed Infants(link is external).

Plasma is a more stable specimen than whole blood.  Therefore, if a whole blood specimen won’t arrive at the lab within 72 hrs of collection, follow the instructions for processing whole blood to plasma.  Store plasma at 2-8°C and ship it to us in an insulated shipper on cold packs after the holiday weekend.  The lab must receive the plasma specimen within 7 days of collection.  

You can find information on HIV testing and locations for HIV testing sites on the NYSDOH website(link is external). You can also get information by calling the NYSDOH AIDS Hotline: 1-800-541-AIDS.