November 21, 2008
Docs, ERs Still Ignore CDC Suggestion to Test for HIV
Two years after the federal government recommended that patients in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices be routinely tested for HIV, a large number of studies show that few are following that advice, The Washington Post reports.
Veronica Miller, director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, said at a national HIV research summit this week in Washington, DC, that only about 5 percent of patients with evidence of serious illness are being routinely tested in hospital emergency rooms for HIV.
The studies show that people are under the impression the test takes too long or that some insurers will be reluctant to pay for the test. Point-of-service testing consists of a saliva test, followed, if possible, by a confirmatory blood test. If a patient is charged, the cost is about $80 to $120.
When the emergency department at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC, began administering HIV tests, about half of the district’s wealthiest opted out of testing, compared with one third of those from the poorest. Of those who accepted testing, 0.8 tested positive compared to the district’s estimated 5 percent HIV prevalence rate. Researchers speculated that the reason the infection rate was unexpectedly low might be that HIV prevalence is higher in people who decline testing.
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