San Francisco Chronicle examines emergency department HIV testing program

The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday examined an HIV testing program at San Francisco General Hospital's emergency department, which is part of a nationwide CDC program that offers routine testing to all ED patients.

CDC officials say the program has identified more cases of HIV in the U.S. and helps explain a recent rise in the number of new cases. "I can't say that it's all due to emergency room testing, but it's certainly suggestive that that's what's occurring," Bernard Branson, an associate director with CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said, adding, "We're beginning to work down the backlog of these cases and in the process identify not only more people but identify them earlier, so with effective therapy and treatment they can have a normal life expectancy." Branson also explained that patients must verbally consent to receiving an HIV test.

Health officials targeted emergency departments for the program because of the variety of populations they serve, including the uninsured and others who use EDs as their primary health care facility. San Francisco General Hospital has seen an increase in the number of patients tested, from about 150 monthly to 500, while HIV cases have been recorded among patients from a variety of demographics, Beth Kaplan, who oversees the program, said.

The article also profiled an ED testing effort in Fort Worth, Texas. According to the Chronicle, the number of HIV-positive diagnoses made at the JPS Health Network hospital in Forth Worth increased by four times the amount of diagnoses before the hospital increased testing in 2006, up from 17 in 2005 to 98 in 2008. Glenn Raup, the former senior executive director of emergency and trauma services at the hospital, said the testing effort was made in conjunction with hospital-sponsored HIV/AIDS awareness programs. Raup said community awareness has increased and that there is less stigma associated with HIV testing (Berton, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/11).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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