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Special Communication
August 27, 2008

Opt-Out Testing for Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the United States: Progress and Challenges

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Bartlett); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (Drs Branson and Fenton); Forum for Collaborative HIV Research and George Washington University, Washington, DC (Mr Hauschild and Dr Miller); and Department of Medicine, Brown University, and Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island (Dr Mayer).

JAMA. 2008;300(8):945-951. doi:10.1001/jama.300.8.945

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing for all persons aged 13 to 64 years in all health care settings. Signed consent would not be required and counseling with referral would be managed as it is for other serious conditions. The goal of the recommendations is to promote earlier entry into care to reduce unnecessary mortality and facilitate prevention by behavioral changes that accompany knowledge of serostatus. Concerns about the change include laws in some states that mandate signed consent and counseling, a perception that counseling is an effective prevention strategy, variability in payment coverage for the test, concerns about the stigma and discrimination that may accompany the HIV diagnosis, and the possibility that other testing policies would be more effective. Eleven of 16 states have changed legislation to reduce barriers to testing, 35 of 74 national professional societies have endorsed the new recommendations, and multiple demonstration projects have shown feasibility. Metrics to evaluate the health outcomes of the CDC's recommendations for HIV testing have been defined, but the data necessary to determine the effects on early entry into care, the actual reduction in disease incidence, and the unanticipated consequences are not yet available.