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U.S. News

Connecticut: Hospitals Picked to Offer Patients Free HIV Tests

January 6, 2009

Emergency rooms at three Connecticut hospitals have begun routinely offering free HIV screening to patients under a two-year CDC-funded pilot project. While ERs traditionally have not been used as testing sites for STDs, physicians say this is changing as emergency admissions become the only time many who are uninsured and poor have contact with doctors.

"I never went into emergency medicine thinking I would do AIDS counseling," said Dr. Joseph U. Becker, chief resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital's ER, one of the testing sites funded. "But when you are dealing with threats like this, you have to redefine the scope of practice."

In Connecticut, one of 26 states participating in the CDC program, ER-based testing will also be offered at Waterbury Hospital and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London. For a year, CDC-subsidized HIV testing has been taking place in community health centers. Twenty people have been diagnosed with HIV in that program, said Chris Andresen, a manager with the state Department of Public Health's AIDS and chronic disease unit.

Yale-New Haven's ER program has already diagnosed one patient who did not realize she had HIV, said Becker. "The early intervention is key," Andresen said. "If they find out early, they can stay healthier longer and not transmit it to others."

Connecticut, a small state, ranks fifth in the nation in AIDS cases per capita, said Dr. Steven I. Aronin, medical director of Waterbury Hospital's Infectious Diseases Clinic. In Waterbury, an estimated 300 people have HIV and do not know it, he said. "It's a scary number for lots of reasons. For individuals who have it and don't know it, their immune systems are being depleted as we speak. And they could be passing it on to others."

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
New York Times
01.04.09; Tracy Gordon Fox

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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