“Opt-Out” HIV Testing: A Better Paradigm in the Real World

Gary Daffin and Dr. Laura Kogelman | 11/24/2009, 10:04 a.m.

The movement from an “opt-in” to an “opt-out” system may sound like a mere change in terminology.  But as a practical matter, it can sometimes make all the difference in the world.  Studies have shown that “opt-out” approaches to screening in other health areas have increased detection of illness.  If successful, the change will be welcomed and long overdue.

With “opt-out” testing, an HIV test will become a standard procedure during a routine medical visit. Providers will be more likely to test for HIV, advancing the CDC’s goal of reducing the number of new infections and offering medical care to persons with HIV as early as possible.

The current HIV testing system is a barrier to linking those living with undiagnosed HIV to care, and it must be changed.  But any change in HIV/AIDS policy must be done right.  To reach the 5000-plus residents who are unaware of their status, and to stem the tide of HIV transmission, Massachusetts must embrace an “opt-out” model.

Gary Daffin is the Executive Director of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition in Boston and serves as a Co-Chair of the Prevent AIDS Now Coalition.
Dr. Laura Kogelman is the Director of the Infectious Disease Clinic at Tufts Medical Center.