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Editor's Correspondence
August 11/25, 2008

State Human Immunodeficiency Virus Testing Laws

Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1717-1718. doi:10.1001/archinte.168.15.1717-b

In their informative article, Halpern et al1 point out that intensivists' decisions to pursue nonconsented testing are often associated with erroneous understandings and perceptions of state laws. The authors propose uniform standards for nonconsented testing. We agree that such a policy would be optimal. Although appealing in its simplicity, this solution may not be immediately—if at all—feasible or accepted, since each state writes its own laws. The lack of national conformity regarding nonconsented testing can be expected to continue. Because of the complexity and variability of these laws, as well as recent changes in many states' laws, intensivists and other clinicians will need make decisions that are—or are perceived to be—at odds with state laws. The misunderstanding of state laws mentioned by Halpern et al1 is central to this problem. The National HIV/AIDS Clinicians' Consultation Center (NCCC) of the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital, has produced the “Compendium of State HIV/AIDS Testing Laws”2 (the Compendium) that can assist clinicians in meeting these challenging dilemmas. The Compendium is updated periodically as state laws change. Because of the tediousness of sifting through laws and the challenges in interpreting complex legal language, the Compendium has a “Quick Reference Guide” for each state that summarizes pertinent laws for clinicians. In addition, the NCCC's “Warmline” (telephone: 800-933-3413) can answer additional questions on human immunodeficiency virus testing and management. These services can help intensivists make clinically appropriate decisions while understanding how these decisions conform to state laws.