San Francisco changes HIV testing requirements

Verbal consent will replace written consent forms for HIV tests in San Francisco

BY Matthew Van Atta

May 19 2006 11:00 PM ET

Health officials
in San Francisco this week issued new regulations that
allow public clinics and hospitals to forego getting signed
consent forms from patients seeking HIV antibody
tests, saying that verbal consent is enough to proceed
with the tests, the San Francisco Chronicle
reports. Pretest counseling requirements also have
been eliminated in an effort to make HIV antibody testing as
easy as possible for those giving and those taking the
tests, says Jeffrey Klausner, director of sexually
transmitted disease prevention and control for the
city. Pretest counseling will still be available for
patients who ask for it, but it is no longer
mandatory, according to the rule change.

The change makes
San Francisco the first U.S. city to drop pretest
counseling and written consent requirements at public
facilities. Although the change in regulations applies
only to public hospitals and clinics, Klausner says
many private clinics are considering similar changes
to their HIV testing policies.

Klausner said San
Francisco's previous policy requiring counseling and
written consent is outdated. "When I reviewed testing
records earlier this year, I was shocked to see a
substantial proportion of people were not testing for
bureaucratic reasons," Klausner told the Chronicle.
"The several layers of paperwork, the required
counseling for HIV testing—they were actually a
barrier."

Some AIDS
advocates were upset by the change in policy. Diana Bruce of
the AIDS Alliance for Children Youth and Families told the
Chronicle that pretest counseling and written
consent are particularly important for women of color and
poor people, who need “testing that is
culturally competent, that builds their trust, and
that they have been properly informed [of] in
writing.” Steven Tierney, deputy executive
director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, told
the Associated Press that while his organization believes
that making HIV antibody testing easier is a
“good thing,” the agency believes
“folks have a right to full, informed
consent.” (The Advocate)

Tags: Health

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