The Effectiveness of a Verbal Opt-Out System for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Screening During Pregnancy

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We sought to evaluate the use of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening during pregnancy in a health care system using the verbal opt-out method, in which HIV screening was recommended during all pregnancies and women were given an opportunity to refuse testing.


This was a retrospective cohort study of pregnancies resulting in delivery from 1998 through 2001 at Denver Health Medical Center, an urban public hospital. The main outcome measure was the proportion of documented HIV screening within 9 months before the delivery date.


Of 12,221 pregnancies resulting in delivery, HIV screening was completed in 12,000 (98.2%, 95% confidence interval 97.9–98.4%). Of the 221 women not screened for HIV, only 24 (10.9% of those not screened, 0.2% of all women in the study) were documented as refusing HIV testing. Patients not screened for HIV presented late in pregnancy, a median of 1 day before delivery, compared with a median of 176 days for those who were screened (P < .001).


A verbal opt-out system was very effective in promoting HIV screening during pregnancy. Late presentation in pregnancy was associated with not having HIV screening performed.



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