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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Clinical Testing

What kind of clinical testing does the BVL do?

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.  


How do I submit a specimen to the BVL for clinical testing?

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. 


Is there a charge for clinical testing?

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. 


Do I need to contact the BVL before submitting specimens for clinical testing?

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.


How are clinical test results returned to the submitter?

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.   


What are some reasons why my specimen wasn’t tested or I didn’t receive my results?

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. 


I forgot to include the requisition with a specimen submitted for clinical testing, or did not fill it out completely – can I FAX a requisition to you?

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.


What testing is appropriate for Pediatric HIV testing?

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


What should I do if a whole blood specimen has been collected on a Friday before a holiday weekend? If I ship on Friday, you won’t receive and process the sample within 72 hrs of collection.

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.  


Where is HIV testing offered in New York State?

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

STARHS

What is STARHS testing?

STARHS stands for Serological Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversion and it is the laboratory testing method used for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) HIV Incidence Surveillance Program. The Wadsworth Center’s Bloodborne Viruses Laboratory is the CDC contract laboratory for STARHS testing. 


What method should I use to ship STARHS samples to the CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory?

STARHS samples should be shipped to the CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory at the Wadsworth Center by FedEx Standard Overnight Delivery.  You will need to register for a STARHS FedEx account (see question: How does our laboratory register for a FedEx account to ship STARHS samples to the CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory).  


If I am shipping STARHS samples, is my laboratory responsible for paying the FedEx shipping charges?

No, once you have registered in the STARHS FedEx system, you will not be responsible for paying the FedEx charges for shipping STARHS samples to the CDC STARHS Laboratory at the Wadsworth Center. All participating laboratories will assign a shipping coordinator who will have access to a dedicated FedEx account for shipping STARHS samples to the CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory. 


How does our laboratory register for a FedEx account to ship STARHS samples to the CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory?

To register for a STARHS FedEx account, your shipping coordinator should contact the STARHS Laboratory Coordinator by phone at 518-473-3567 or by email at nko.ali-napo@health.ny.gov. Registration will require the shipping coordinator’s full name and email address. The CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory staff will forward that information to FedEx who will then email a formal invitation to the shipping coordinator. The shipping coordinator will be required to set up an online profile within 30 days of the invitation. The account will be activated once this information is provided. Please note that the invitation expires after 30 days. 


Our shipping coordinator never received a STARHS FedEx invitation or they received the FedEx invitation but are still having problems registering. What should they do?

For any issues with the FedEx registration process please email Thomas Miller or call 518-474-4882.


Do I need to request supplies for each STARHS shipment?

No. The CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory will return all shipping materials required to send your next shipment.


Can I ship STARHS samples on weekends or holidays?

The CDC STARHS Testing Laboratory is open Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 4:00pm. To ensure all specimens are received and handled quickly and efficiently, shipments should be scheduled for delivery Monday – Friday.

 


How do we schedule a shipment?

To arrange a shipment, go to www.FedEx.com/us and login using the user name and password. Next, from the “SHIP” tab (left side of menu bar) select “Create Shipment”. Complete all the required information including the “ship to” address which is:

NYSDOH Wadsworth Center
Axelrod Institute
Bloodborne Viruses Laboratory: STARHS
120 New Scotland Ave
Albany, NY 12208

Attn: N’ko Lea Ali-Napo

Telephone: (518) 473-3567

 


Do we need a FedEx account number to schedule a STARHS shipment?

If using the STARHS FedEx system to ship specimens, you will not need to enter an account number.


What address do we ship our STARHS specimens to?

STARHS specimens should be shipped to the following address: NYSDOH Wadsworth Center, Axelrod Institute, Bloodborne Viruses Laboratory: STARHS, 120 New Scotland Ave, Albany, NY 12208, Attn: N’ko Lea Ali-Napo, Telephone: (518) 473-3567