September 26, 2011
It's no secret that not enough people get tested for HIV on a regular basis, let alone get tested at all. Here in the United States, an estimated 300,000 Americans infected with HIV are completely unaware of their status. Access to care plays a role in people not getting tested, but so do the missed opportunities that occur in hospital and ER settings.
A new pilot program aims to address similar testing gaps in Canada. Starting next month, doctors in two Vancouver hospitals will begin offering an HIV test to every patient who requires some type of blood work. This initiative is part of a four-year, $48 million program, Stop HIV/AIDS.
The Vancouver Sun reported:
Beginning October 3, physicians will begin offering HIV tests to every patient requiring blood work who is admitted to the city's St. Paul's and Mount Saint Joseph hospitals.
Testing will be offered to patients at Vancouver General in November and at University of British Columbia hospital in 2012.
The project will end in March 2013. After that, the results will be analyzed and considered for expansion.
The tests will require consent of patients, and the results will remain confidential.
There are an estimated 3,500 people living in B.C. who are not aware they are HIV positive, according to the Vancouver Health Authority.
Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul's Hospital, told The Sun, "Still today HIV infection is not being diagnosed early enough." He added, "This is a serious issue as it can lead to fully preventable morbidity, mortality and HIV transmission. Given the remarkable efficacy of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, it's more important than ever for people to be diagnosed and access treatment as early as possible."
Here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended since 2006 that doctors make HIV testing routine for all patients from the ages of 13 to 64. But we all know that does not happen. It's been well documented that doctors have their own set of issues when it comes to offering HIV tests to all of their patients.
Recently, a study about African-American docs and HIV testing found that black doctors were afraid they would offend patients by insinuating that they needed an HIV test, or that doctors minimized their patients' risk factors because they didn't fit into the "high-risk" mold.
Do you believe this pilot program is a good idea? Should more hospitals in the U.S. push to ensure that every patient coming in for blood work is offered an HIV test?
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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