Emergency departments in three Connecticut hospitals—Yale-New Haven Hospital, Waterbury Hospital and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London—are participating in a national pilot program that offers free HIV testing, The New York Times reports.

To date, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has enrolled 26 states in the testing program—launched on World AIDS Day, December 1—which offers routine HIV screenings in emergency rooms, community health centers and sexual health clinics even if patients display no symptoms of the virus.

According to the article, Connecticut has a disproportionate number of people living with HIV despite its small size. Per capita, the state ranks fifth in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, the majority of which are located in cities like Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury.

Steven I. Aronin, MD, the medical director of Waterbury Hospital’s Infectious Disease Clinic, estimates that as many as 1,200 people live with HIV in Waterbury alone, 300 of which are unaware of their status.

“It’s a scary number for lots of reasons,” Aronin told the Times. “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.”

However, many health officials are optimistic that the pilot testing program will get more people tested and, if positive, on necessary treatment.

“This is a great opportunity for an emergency department to step outside the normal protocol and become proactive,” said Christopher J. Michos, MD, director of Waterbury Hospital’s emergency department.