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June 23/30, 1999

Anonymous HIV Testing and Medical Care

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Interim CoeditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;281(24):2282-2283. doi:10.1001/jama.281.24.2282

To the Editor: Dr Bindman and colleagues1 offer important information about the value of maintaining the option of anonymous testing for HIV, even in jurisdictions that move to name-based HIV surveillance. What may be lost in the focus on anonymous vs confidential testing, however, is a far more important public health and clinical issue: why HIV-positive individuals are learning their status so late in disease progression regardless of the testing site. For a disease that has an estimated 10-year window between HIV infection and a diagnosis of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a median of 929 days (for anonymous testing) and 90 days (for confidential testing) between learning of one's HIV infection and an AIDS diagnosis is far too short. The average time between learning status and entering care (328 days for anonymous, 187 days for confidential) also represents a failure of posttest counseling to successfully link HIV-positive individuals with care.