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Opt-Out Testing

Opt-Out Testing

In 2006, the CDC released its Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings, which advise providers in healthcare settings to:

  • Adopt a policy of routine HIV testing for everyone between the ages of 13-64 and all pregnant women
  • Use opt-out screening for HIV—meaning that HIV tests will be done routinely unless a patient explicitly refuses to take an HIV test
  • Eliminate the requirements for pretest counseling, informed consent, and post-test counseling

“Opt-out testing” does not mean that you MUST take an HIV test. In general, you have the right to refuse an HIV test. (Exceptions include blood and organ donors, military applicants and active duty personnel, Federal and state prison inmates under certain circumstances, newborns in some states, and immigrants.)

The CDC believes that opt-out screening for HIV:

  • Will help more people find out if they have HIV
  • Will help those infected with HIV find out earlier, when treatment works best
  • Can further decrease the number of babies born with HIV
  • Can reduce stigma associated with HIV testing
  • Will enable those who are infected to take steps to protect the health of their partners

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the CDC recommend that routine, opt-out HIV screening start with 13-year-olds?

Research indicates that a significant percentage of teens are sexually active, which automatically puts them at risk for contracting STDs, including HIV. A 2007 CDC survey found that 47% of students in grades 9-12 reported having had sexual intercourse at least once, and 37% of sexually active students did not use a condom during their last act of sexual intercourse. Routine HIV screening would also allow many teens to get tested for HIV, without having to disclose their sexual activity to their parents.

Why are pretest/prevention counseling and informed consent no longer recommended in healthcare settings?

According to the CDC, the intention behind eliminating prevention counseling was to reduce or end barriers to testing in healthcare settings. CDC believes HIV testing can be covered under a general permission form (consent form) that is signed for all medical care.

For more questions and answers about opt-out screening, see CDC’s Questions and Answers for the General Public: Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Healthcare Settings.

Last revised: 08/05/2009