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HIV: FAQs About Testing, Disclosure, and Significant Exposure in Health Care Settings

When the 2009 Wisconsin Act 209 was signed into law on April 21, 2010, it eliminated the requirement for written informed consent for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing—replacing it with a verbal consent process. The act also revised laws related to test results disclosure and significant exposure in health care settings.

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers about the statutory revisions, as well as other common questions about HIV statutes detailed in Wis. Stat. ch. 252 – Wisconsin’s Communicable Diseases.

Wisconsin law requires that providers follow these steps to get verbal consent:

  1. Tell the person that HIV testing will be performed unless they decline it.
  2. Offer the person written or verbal information about HIV, including:
  • How test results must be reported. o What services are available.
  • What test results mean.
  • What treatment options are available.
  1. Tell the person they can decline testing and, if they do, they won’t be denied services or treatment.
  2. Give the person a chance to ask questions or decline testing.
  3. Make sure the person understands that testing will occur and is voluntary.

The law also requires that providers record the person’s consent to or refusal of testing in their medical record.

No. Another health care provider can get testing consent.

No. The steps outlined in the first question must be followed. But providers can use a “yes/no” checkbox on an intake form to identify those who are interested in HIV testing.

Yes, but it’s best to perform step 3 verbally.

Yes, as long as all the steps listed in the first question are covered.

Yes, but the provider must also give the person the information listed in steps 2 and 3 of the first question. In addition, they must have the chance to ask questions. The provider should keep the signed consent form in the person’s medical record.

No. It’s only required for diagnostic HIV testing. Once the person knows they have HIV, the informed consent process is no longer required for testing performed to monitor the disease.

The provider can include it on the person’s medical record. It can be included as a checkbox on either an electronic or paper record.

No. By law, they only have to document whether the person consented to or declined testing. Some providers may choose to document additional information, however. An agency’s individual policies and procedures should include what is covered under verbal informed consent.

Providers should submit HIV/AIDS case report forms (Word) to the director of the Wisconsin HIV Program at DHS.

No. A signed form isn’t needed because reporting positive HIV test results is required by law.

Yes. The federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rule lets providers give this information to a public health official without the person’s consent. This is only when the official is collecting the information to help prevent or control the disease.

Yes. This is allowed as long as the provider conducts the entire verbal consent process prior to surgery.

No. This is not permitted by law.

Wisconsin law states that a provider who performs an HIV test on an exposed person must tell the person and their regular provider the results.

This part of the law refers to the provider releasing the person’s result to the exposed person and their provider when the source doesn’t consent and the HIV test result is performed on already existing blood or due to a court order.

If the person who was exposed is their provider, they already have access to the test result and an authorization isn’t necessary. But if the person who was exposed isn’t their provider, an “Authorization for Disclosure” must be signed by the person with HIV before their test results are released. In both cases, Employee Health should release the test results.

No. This isn’t allowed by law. But the provider should ask the person who was the source of the significant exposure to agree to share their test result and help them get medical services.

Yes, in certain circumstances. Wisconsin law lets a corpse be tested for HIV when a significant exposure involves a:

  • Funeral director, coroner, medical examiner, or medical examiner assistant.
  • Good Samaritan.
  • Health care provider or provider employee.

Additional questions?

If you have other questions that weren’t answered here, contact:

Jacob Dougherty
HIV Prevention Supervisor
Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS)
HIV Program
1 W. Wilson St.
Madison, WI 53703

Last revised July 21, 2022