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San Francisco
changes HIV testing requirements

San Francisco
changes HIV testing requirements

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

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Klausner said San Francisco's previous policy requiring counseling and written consent is outdated.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)

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