Dropping Written-Consent Law May Boost HIV Testing

Screening rates rose after the rule was eliminated, U.S. team finds

TUESDAY, March 13, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Eliminating the need for written consent for HIV testing may help increase rates of testing for the AIDS-causing virus, a new U.S. study finds.

Dr. Nicola M. Zetola of department of medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues compared HIV testing rates before and after May 2006, when the San Francisco Department of Public Health Medical Care System dropped the need for written consent for HIV testing.

After the policy change, the monthly rate of HIV testing increased from 13.5 HIV tests per 1,000 patient visits in June 2006 to 17.9 tests per 1,000 patient visits in December 2006.

The mean number of positive HIV tests per month increased from 20.6 before the policy change to 30.6 after the change.

"These findings are consistent with increases in HIV testing associated with an administrative policy change that simplified consent for HIV testing. Because these data are observational, other events may have contributed to this temporal increase of HIV testing," Zetola wrote in a letter published in the March 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Further research is needed to more closely examine a possible link between simplified consent for HIV testing and increased rates of testing, Zetola said.

New U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend making HIV testing a routine part of medical care and advise against using a separate written consent form for such tests, Zetola noted in the letter.

More information

The CDC has more about HIV testing.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, March 13, 2007
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