HIV-Positive People Not Obtaining Test Results, Receiving Appropriate Counseling, Studies Say
Many HIV-positive people do not return to obtain the results of HIV tests and many other HIV-positive individuals who are aware of their HIV-positive status do not receive adequate counseling regarding reducing the risk of HIV transmission, according to two studies presented on Monday at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, Reuters reports. University of California-San Francisco researchers surveyed more than 600 HIV-positive people and found that only 25% had discussed safer sex methods and other ways to prevent HIV transmission with their doctors. In addition, only 6% of those surveyed said that they had discussed specific sexual activities with their physicians, Reuters reports. Researchers cited physicians' lack of time and lack of training in the topic area, as well as doctors' "poor understanding of their role in preventing the spread of HIV," as reasons for the low percentages, Reuters reports. In a separate study, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services conducted HIV tests in gay bathhouses and found that 40% of the men who tested positive for HIV returned to learn their results, while 60% of the men testing positive failed to return to learn their HIV status. In addition, approximately 11% of men who tested positive for HIV had said that they thought it was "unlikely" or "very unlikely" that they would test HIV-positive.
Health officials said that they hoped programs aimed at training doctors to better counsel HIV-positive patients would help reduce risky behavior. In addition, health officials said that using OraSure's rapid HIV test OraQuick is an "ideal way to gain access to people at the highest risk of infection" because people who have been tested can receive results the same day, according to Reuters (Simao, Reuters, 7/28). Ged Kenslea, spokesperson for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, "The increase in (HIV cases among) gay and bisexual men is being borne out by our testing initiatives." He added, "We're trying to, in a sense, get people to think of their sexual hygiene in the way they would think of their dental hygiene. ... Hopefully, we can encourage people to get tested on a yearly basis." Before the rapid testing programs were available, 65% of people who tested HIV-positive returned for their test results, Kenslea said, according to the Los Angeles Times (Heinrichs, Los Angeles Times, 7/29).
Webcasts of selected sessions of the conference are available online through kaisernetwork.org's HealthCast.