HIV Specialist Encourages Use of Voluntary Opt-Out HIV Testing

LAS VEGAS -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention (CDC), between 252,000 to 312,000 Americans are unaware that they  are HIV-positive.  During a presentation on Oct. 16, 2006, at the American Osteopathic Association Convention and Scientific Seminar in Las Vegas, the medical director of the Lancaster Comprehensive Care Center in Pennsylvania encouraged the use of voluntary opt-out HIV testing as part of the solution to help stop the virus from spreading.

"We need to make HIV testing more normal and less stigmatized," said  Jeffrey Kirchner, DO, an osteopathic family physician and certified HIV specialist.  "If more physicians use voluntary opt-out for HIV testing, I believe more patients will get tested because they won't feel like they're being targeted as high-risk individuals. With opt-out testing, the patient is told by the doctor that they will be routinely screened for HIV as part of standard medical care -- but they have the option to refuse or decline testing. With opt-in testing, patients must specifically ask for an HIV test.

In the "Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings" released by the CDC on Sept. 22, 2006, it states that more patients accept recommended HIV testing when it is offered routinely to everyone, without a risk assessment, but Kirchner points out, "We've come a long way in treating people living with HIV, but we must realize that we still have a lot of work to do. We obviously can't treat patients until they've been diagnosed.  If we have a way to make them feel more comfortable about being tested, we should do it."

Source: American Osteopathic Association