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Ann Emerg Med. 2011 Jul;58(1 Suppl 1):S28-32.e1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2011.03.020.

A comparison of patient and staff attitudes about emergency department-based HIV testing in 2 urban hospitals.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, OH 44109-1998, USA.



This study compares and contrasts emergency department (ED) patient and staff attitudes towards ED-based HIV testing in 2 major hospitals in a single city, with an attempt to answer the following: Should routine ED-based HIV testing be offered? If so, who should be responsible for disclosing HIV test results? And what barriers might prevent ED-based HIV testing?


Paper-based surveys were presented to a convenience sample of ED patients and staff at 2 urban, academic, tertiary care hospitals between December 2007 and June 2009. Descriptive statistics were derived with SAS and MicroSoft Excel. Data are reported in percentages, fractions, and graphs.


A total of 457 patients and 85 staff completed the surveys. The majority of patients favor ED-based HIV testing. Only a minority of ED staff support ED-based HIV testing. In both hospitals, patients prefer to have HIV test results delivered by a physician. This was true for both positive and negative results. However, only about one third of attending physicians feel comfortable disclosing a positive HIV test result. Patients and staff both view privacy and confidentiality as significant barriers to ED-based HIV testing.


Although ED patients are overwhelmingly in favor of ED-based HIV testing, the staff is not. Patients and staff agree that physicians should deliver HIV test results to patients, but a significant number of physicians are not comfortable doing so. Historical barriers continue to hinder ED-based HIV testing programs.

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