Healthy sexual lifestyle should be emphasised when negative results of HIV tests are given

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7067.1259b (Published 16 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1259
  1. Eric Curless
  1. Honorary secretary, Association for Genitourinary Medicine Bolton Centre for Sexual Health, Bolton General Hospital, Bolton BL4 0JR

    EDITOR,—Riva Miller and Marc Lipman welcome the Department of Health's recent guidelines for pre-test discussion on HIV antibody testing.1 I am concerned, however, that there are two serious omissions from these guidelines, which may have an effect on the public health.

    Firstly, no reference is made to offering testing for other sexually transmitted diseases. People who request testing for HIV antibody have a high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, many of which are symptomless and are detected only by routine screening.

    Secondly, the guidelines give no advice about counselling after the test for those in whom the result is negative. Most people who have an HIV test are given a negative result. This is an ideal opportunity to reinforce issues of general health promotion and of sexual health promotion in particular. Such an opportunity to emphasise the importance of a healthy sexual lifestyle should not be minimised when a negative result is given. Experience in genitourinary medicine clinics (where most HIV tests have been carried out) suggests that patients are particularly receptive to this advice at this time, when the anxieties about the HIV test have diminished.

    Skill is readily available in genitourinary medicine clinics for both counselling before and after HIV tests and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.


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