Florida: ER to Give Free HIV Testing
April 10, 2006
Later this month, South Florida's Jackson Memorial Hospital will start offering routine rapid HIV testing to emergency room patients. The region has one of the nation's highest HIV infection rates, with more than 30,000 people living with the disease. Hospital officials hope the initiative will be successful in getting more infected people into treatment and slow the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"Testing is an intervention because you start treating them before they get ill," said Dr. Daniel Gurr, the hospital's associate director for emergency services. "But it's also prevention: When someone knows they're positive, they can take steps to protect their spouse, or whoever they are involved with."
Florida is one of many states whose strict HIV testing rules, which were designed to protect patients' rights, have had the unintended consequence of making testing distinct from routine medical care. CDC is calling for expanded testing nationwide, noting that one-quarter of HIV-positive persons do not know they are infected.
The hospital initiative will be staffed by full-time HIV counselors who will offer testing only to those admitted to Jackson's emergency room with a medical problem. A $100,000 grant from Gilead Sciences is paying staff salaries for the first year, while the state Department of Health will pay for the rapid testing kits.
Under the program, Jackson officials expect more than 5,000 people will be tested in the first year. Though the chaotic environment of an emergency room may not be the ideal setting for a person to learn that he or she is positive, Doralba Muñoz, executive director of Union Positiva, which conducts testing in Miami's Hispanic community, said "Jackson has the expertise in dealing with HIV" because of its large number of infected patients.
04.07.06; Jacob Goldstein
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.