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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2011 Nov 1;58(3):277-82. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e318231916d.

Increased acceptance rates of HIV screening using opt-out consent methods in an urban emergency department.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Alameda County Medical Center-Highland Hospital, Oakland, CA 94602, USA.



Optimal methods for implementing HIV screening in health care settings remain unknown.


To compare the acceptance rates of emergency department HIV screening when supplemental staff use opt-in and opt-out consent methods.


Experimental equivalent time-sample, conducted in an urban emergency department with an annual census of 80,000 visits. HIV screeners performed nontargeted HIV screening using point-of-care, rapid HIV tests. Eligible patients were medically stable, English or Spanish speaking, ≥13 or ≤64 years, not HIV tested in past 6 months, and not psychiatrically impaired. Screeners offered eligible patients HIV screening using either opt-in or opt-out consent methods on alternate weeks. Main outcome measures were the acceptance rate of HIV screening and the association between opt-out rapid HIV screening and acceptance.


Of the eligible patients, 2409 were offered HIV screening, with 1209 (50%) on opt-in days and 1200 (50%) on opt-out days. The mean age was 40 years, 52% were male, 45% were Black, 28% Hispanic, and 15% white. The acceptance rate of opt-in HIV screening was 63% [767 of 1209, 95% confidence interval (CI): 61% to 66%] and the acceptance rate of opt-out HIV screening was 78% (931 of 1200, 95% CI: 75% to 80%), absolute difference 14% (95% CI: 11% to 18%). The acceptance rate of opt-out HIV screening remained greater after adjusting for patient demographics, admission status, acuity, treatment area, privacy of encounter, and screening staff identity (adjusted odds ratio: 2.0, 95% CI: 1.7 to 2.4).


Opt-out HIV screening using supplemental staff increases patient acceptance and should be considered as the consent methodology of choice.

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