Streamlined consent increases HIV testing among high-risk

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today lauded a recent San Francisco study which documented a significant increase in HIV testing rates among high-risk groups who have not had to undergo written consent for the procedure, a study finding which supports a change in testing protocol that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first recommended in its revised 2006 guidelines for HIV testing, but a change that has not been widely adopted nationwide.

As part of the study, which was first published July 2nd online on PloS One (Public Library of Science), the San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center eliminated required written patient consent for HIV testing in its medical settings in May 2006. According to the results of the study, which compared data with previous archival testing data utilizing "…an observational study using interrupted time series analysis." Among the findings:

  • By June 2007, the average monthly rate of HIV tests per 1000 patient-visits increased 4.38 over the number predicted if the policy change had not occurred, representing a 44% increase.
  • The monthly average number of new positive HIV tests increased from 8.9 to 14.9, representing a 67% increase.
  • Although increases in HIV testing were seen in all populations, populations at highest risk for HIV infection, particularly men, the homeless, and the uninsured experienced the highest increases in monthly HIV testing rates after the policy change.

"This study confirms what many AIDS advocates working on the front lines in HIV prevention and testing outreach have known for a while: that reducing barriers to testing by doing away with the more cumbersome written informed consent protocol will really help increase HIV testing, particularly among some hard-to-reach, higher-risk populations," said Joey Terrill, Acting Public Affairs Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation's largest AIDS organization which operates the largest community-based free HIV and STD testing program in California. "This survey also validates the need for states to restructure their consent laws to make HIV screening routinely accessible, particularly those states with high prevalence rates. California took the lead in doing so last year by passing AB 682, a bill that eliminated written informed consent. Unfortunately, New York, the state with the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the nation, missed an opportunity to follow suit last week when a similar HIV testing consent bill by Assembly Member Nettie Mayersohn died in committee. This, at the same time that the New York City Health Department was announcing an ambitious initiative to test all adults in the Bronx where the death rate is disproportionately high for those populations most at risk-the people, who this survey shows, would benefit most from increased testing, early detection and access to treatment and care."

Following is a link to the study: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2435630

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 18 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia.

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