Missed opportunities: refusal to confirm reactive rapid HIV tests in the emergency department

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53408. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053408. Epub 2013 Jan 8.


Background: HIV infection remains a major US public health concern. While HIV-infected individuals now benefit from earlier diagnosis and improved treatment options, progress is tempered by large numbers of newly diagnosed patients who are lost to follow-up prior to disease confirmation and linkage to care.

Methodology: In the randomized, controlled USHER trial, we offered rapid HIV tests to patients presenting to a Boston, MA emergency department. Separate written informed consent was required for confirmatory testing. In a secondary analysis, we compared participants with reactive results who did and did not complete confirmatory testing to identify factors associated with refusal to complete the confirmation protocol.

Principal findings: Thirteen of 62 (21.0%, 95% CI (11.7%, 33.2%)) participants with reactive rapid HIV tests refused confirmation; women, younger participants, African Americans, and those with fewer HIV risks, with lower income, and without primary care doctors were more likely to refuse. We projected that up to four true HIV cases were lost at the confirmation stage.

Conclusions: These findings underscore the need to better understand the factors associated with refusal to confirm reactive HIV testing and to identify interventions that will facilitate confirmatory testing and linkage to care among these populations.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00502944; NCT01258582.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Boston
  • Educational Status
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • HIV Infections / blood
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / ethnology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV Seropositivity / blood
  • HIV Seropositivity / diagnosis*
  • HIV Seropositivity / ethnology
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • HIV*
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Refusal to Participate / ethnology
  • Refusal to Participate / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • White People

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00502944
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01258582