November 2, 2012
Barney's Pharmacy in Augusta, Ga., aims to change the fact that an estimated one in five people with HIV does not know that they have it. One of 24 participating community pharmacies, Barney's will take part in a national pilot program to expand rapid HIV testing and public education through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ashlee Riggs, a pharmacy resident at Barney's, explains that many individuals who should be screened will not go to an infectious disease clinic, but may feel less threatened being tested at a community pharmacy, as the setting reduces the stigma surrounding the test. The test at Barney's is available over the counter, but is free and offers other advantages, such as support, counseling, and linkage to care if a person tests positive. People do not get these benefits if they are testing themselves alone at home, declares Riggs.
Ben Culpepper, another pharmacy resident at Barney's, notes that not only is the testing an additional service, but it is also an outreach. "Yes, we do want the regular patients that are coming through because the CDC wants everyone to know their status," he said. "But we also want to reach out to the community and let the community know that Barney's pharmacy is a place that they can come to that is safe, confidential, free of judgment, and potentially get the screening if they need it." The pharmacists at Barney's will educate the public about the availability of effective medications to manage HIV. The pharmacists have been trained to administer the tests and will help the patients' physicians in managing care and will remain with patients throughout the whole process, emphasizing to HIV patients that adherence to taking the medications is crucial. The program will likely start in November and become fully operational in December.