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CDC Advice To Get HIV Testing, Ignored By Many

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, November 21, 2008 9:10 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: HIV, AIDS, Public Health, Sexually Transmitted Disease, FDA and Prescription Drugs


IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons / HIV Stages/ Ashvidia

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2006, began recommending patients in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices be routinely tested for HIV, advice that is generally being ignored by most, said scientists at a conference on Thursday.

Only 5 percent of patients with signs of serious illness are being tested routinely in hospital emergency rooms for the virus that causes AIDS, says Veronica Miller, director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research.

“HIV is a life-threatening disease that is severely under-diagnosed and undertreated in the U.S.,” Miller said in a briefing at a two-day Summit on HIV Testing.

The studies found, among the top reasons for people ignoring recommendations is a) reluctance of many insurers to pay for the tests and b) perception by many that it takes too much time.

Point-of-Service testing involves a saliva test, followed by a blood test to confirm whenever possible. If the patient is charged for the test, the bill usually runs from $80 to $120.

Study findings include:

Infection rates run from 0.5 to 1 percent of people tested in urban emergency rooms, although many opt not to be tested.

When George Washington University Medical Center emergency room started offering the saliva test, 0.8 percent of those who accepted testing were infected – below the District’s estimated 5 percent HIV rate.

When trained counselors at Hahnemann University Hospital, in Philadelphia, offered rapid testing to emergency room patients in a setting that lasted no more than five minutes, 83 percent of patient’s said yes. Half were women, 80 percent were black and the median age was 36. One quarter of them had never been tested and 0.7 of percent tested positive.

About 2,000 emergency room patients at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, in Cook County, were sick enough to be admitted and offered an HIV test. Slightly less than 1 percent tested positive and more than 90 percent of them had CD4 cell counts below 200. At that level, a person has severe immune system damage and is considered to be infected with AIDS.

In the two years prior to the test, those patients had visited the emergency room an average of three times – each visit a missed opportunity to have diagnosed their infection in the earlier stages.

The studies also found that if implemented, routine testing would detect the infection at a much earlier stage in many patients.

The CDC estimates that 250,000 Americans in non-high-risk groups are HIV positive, but don’t know it.

A person who is HIV-positive, but unaware they are infected, is three times more likely to transmit the infection than a person who is aware they have it.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and may be contracted through exposure to bodily fluids, including but not limited to blood and semen.

The CDC estimated in 2008, that about 56,300 people were infected with HIV in 2006 (the most recent year data is available). Visit the HIV incidence page for more details. #

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