Around the globe, 37 million individuals are HIV-positive. While that figure is staggering enough, it is estimated that nearly half of all infections are left undiagnosed. Advancements in therapies, preventative education, and a better understanding of how the disease works, all aid in slowing the epidemic. However, if the infection is left undiagnosed, it works against progress, and millions could be at risk for exposure or infection.

With this is mind, researchers have been looking into simple ways to encourage patients to be tested for HIV. They are hoping that what they learn will help medical institutions around the world to be able to convince more people to agree to screening.

Asking Patients the Right Way

It is all in the approach. This is what has been most notable throughout these studies. How a question is phrased can make the difference between someone agreeing to HIV testing—or refusing the exam. Basically, here are three ways to approach:

  • Notifying the patient that testing for HIV is available, and that he or she could request the test if they wanted (also called the opt-in approach). This approach yielded the poorest result, with just over one-third of those asked accepting an exam.
  • Using the “active choice.” In this instance, a patient was asked directly if he or she would like an exam. This second phrasing came up with better results than the first. Over half of the patients who were asked directly, agreed to the testing.
  • The “opt-out” approach simply informed patients that they would be tested for HIV unless they declined. Two-thirds of those who were informed this way were tested, making this approach the most successful.

The Right Method Gets Results

During these trials, patients who were in higher risk categories were more likely to agree to testing than those in lower risk groups. This reaffirms that how a patient is asked can make a big difference in the outcome. It is not completely understood why patient behavior varies with how questions are phrased, but a few simple changes in how healthcare workers ask their questions can do a lot of good.