Two studies presented Monday at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta show that many people who test positive for HIV antibodies never return to testing sites to obtain their results and that many others who are told that they are infected with the virus do not receive adequate risk-reduction counseling. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that of 600 HIV-positive people surveyed, only 25% had discussed safer sex and other HIV prevention methods with their doctors. Only 6% of the study participants said they discussed the risks of specific sex acts with their health care provider.
A second study conduced by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services showed that among gay and bisexual men who sought anonymous HIV antibody testing in gay bathhouses, 60% of the men who tested positive for HIV infection never returned to pick up the results of their tests. Of those men who did return to receive a positive test result, 11% said they had thought it "unlikely" or "very unlikely" that they would test positive.
Health officials said the studies indicated that doctors need to be better trained to counsel HIV-positive patients who engage in risky behavior, particularly in light of new federal recommendations that physicians better encourage their patients to get tested for HIV infection and urge safer sex among those who do test positive. They also noted that the problem of people not returning for their HIV test results can be solved by using the OraQuick rapid HIV test kits that can provide results in about 20 minutes, eliminating the sometimes days-long waiting period before HIV antibody test results are made available.