Washington State health experts seek simpler HIV testing rules
July 24 2004 12:00 AM ET
Health care providers and health experts in Washington say the state's rules governing HIV counseling and testing must be revamped because they are currently so cumbersome that many doctors don't offer the tests, the Seattle Times reports. The guidelines were written in 1988, when many people were still uninformed about HIV, and require everyone receiving an HIV antibody test to receive 30 minutes of pre-test counseling and 30 minutes of post-test counseling every time they take an HIV test, even if they've been tested many times before. Health officials must cover a 46-page guide of 70 points when talking to their patients before and after an HIV test, a process doctors say they do not have the time to routinely handle, says Bob Wood, AIDS control director for the Seattle-King County health department. The guidelines also prevent HIV tests from being given in emergency rooms, Wood says. Scott Barnhart, medical director of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, says the counseling regulations are "more cumbersome than what we give for heart surgery."
Health officials held a public hearing this month on proposed changes to the rules that would allow doctors to skip extensive counseling with patients who've been previously tested and to allow counseling to focus on the specific risk factors of each patient rather than covering all 70 talking points currently required by law. Additional public hearings will be held in the summer and early fall before a final decision is made by the health department to change the testing requirements.