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U.S. News

Texas: Health Facilities Step Up Routine Testing for HIV

January 21, 2009

Houston is one of 25 areas participating in a CDC initiative that provides HIV testing funds to select health departments, hospitals, and clinics. The goal of the $35 million federal program is to test 1.5 million people nationwide this year.

"It's a prevention strategy to identify the people who have the virus and don't know it," said Marlene McNeese-Ward, head of the Houston health department's HIV prevention program. Routine testing detects HIV in a wide range of people, allowing those infected to start treatment earlier, live longer and reduce their chance of transmitting HIV to others, she said.

In 2007, Houston began receiving CDC money to help pay for HIV tests and counseling needs. The city's health department and participating providers have since received more than $1 million. In the last half of 2008, area sites tested more than 11,000 people; 103 were found to be HIV-positive. This year, city officials expect to test 70,000 under the program.

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Emergency departments, where large numbers of uninsured go for care, are considered key to the program. It is estimated that half of people living with HIV in the United States have no health insurance. In 2008, emergency centers at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (MH-TMC) and Ben Taub General Hospital along with two clinics run by Legacy Community Health Services began offering routine HIV testing for adults. The program will expand to LBJ General Hospital's emergency room this spring.

Dr. James McCarthy, emergency director at MH-TMC, which offers tests to patients ages 18-64, said screening everyone reduces the fear and shame associated with HIV. About one in five decline the test, he said.

"The one thing that the community needs to know is the prevalence of this disease is far greater than most of them think," said McCarthy.

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
Houston Chronicle
01.18.2009; Cindy George


  
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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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