About AIDS

Docs Still Not Trained in HIV Testing

As we enter 2001, the most frequent topic of callers' questions for ASA's information hotline is still HIV testing. Given the public's concern, one would think that doctors-in-training would receive instruction on how to provide this critical service.

However, a June CDC-funded study involving graduates of 41 top medical schools demonstrates that most recent medical school graduates are still receiving no training regarding HIV pre-test and post-test counseling. Only 13% of the incoming interns surveyed had received any such training, and most of that was extremely brief.

Since testing for individuals became available in 1985, it has been emphasized that the couseling component of the testing protocol is as important as the test result itself. The ramifications of receiving this information are too great, especially if it's HIV-positive and unexpected.

Here in Austin, as elsewhere, anecdotal evidence suggests that most physicians do not understand the testing process nor are they prepared to provide a result, whether positive or negative - sometimes resulting in frightening outcomes. We readily acknowledge that there are many competing demands for doctors' time, both while in the classroom and thereafter.

However, particularly given the nationwide move toward routinely testing pregnant women, the likelihood constantly increases that a doctor will have to perform this delicate matter. Medical schools need to incorporate this into their curricula or, alternatively, it should be a mandatory aspect of continuing education.

(For details, see Archives of Internal Medicine, 11/27/00, Vol. 160, No. 21)

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