Utne Blogs > Science and Technology

Get an HIV Test Already

by Cally Carswell 


Tags: Science, HIV, AIDS, HIV testing, HIV research, sexually transmitted diseases, emergency rooms, Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, Scientific American,

Emergency Room“With HIV, ignorance is not bliss,” said Dr. Veronica Miller, director of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, in a statement released during the organization’s national summit last week. Miller’s comments came after new research presented at the summit showed that routine HIV tests are not exactly routine.

Research found a mere 50 to 100 out of 5,000 emergency rooms across the country routinely screen for HIV, even though the percentage of ER visitors who test positive is much greater than the percentage of the general population that’s known to be infected. Another study found that only 4.9 percent of fully insured patients with “a serious illness suggestive of AIDS” got HIV tests, and yet another revealed that only 36 percent of insured patients who sought treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases were tested for HIV, according to the forum’s statement.

Scientific American notes that these findings come two years after the Centers for Disease Control recommended everyone ages 13 to 64 get an HIV test, but that “many doctors are reluctant to offer it because insurers don’t always pay for the screen,” which can cost anywhere from $15 to $120.

Image by Mark Coggins, licensed under Creative Commons.

lh
11/30/2008 12:21:32 PM

HIV testing can not be done without written consent from the patient and it requires counseling by someone who is specifically trained to counsel people before the test and after the results are given. This is labor intensive. It is also not appropriate for an emergency room as the initial test has a rapid return, but if that sample tests positive the second test takes longer and the person needs to continue to be available for follow up results and counseling. Also, many people refuse to be tested if their health insurance is precarious. Obviously, if it is illegal to do the test without the patients written consent and without twice speaking to a counselor then it isn't going to be routine.