Pharmacies Offer HIV Testing Through CDC Program

JUNE 26, 2012
Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Pharmacies and retail clinics are offering HIV testing in an effort to help reach the CDC’s goal of testing every adolescent and adult in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a pilot program offering HIV testing in 24 urban and rural pharmacies and retail clinics. The results of the 2-year program, which will cost $1.2 million, will be used to gauge customer interest in the service and develop a model for implementing HIV testing in similar settings across the country.
The hope is that making HIV testing available in pharmacies and retail clinics will increase the number of people who get tested and help reach the CDC’s goal of ensuring that all adults and adolescents are tested for HIV at least once. The agency estimates that 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV, but that a fifth of them are unaware they are infected and a third are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they miss opportunities for treatment and increase the risk of infecting others.
“Our goal is to make HIV testing as routine as a blood pressure check,” said Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS prevention, in a statement. “This initiative is one example of how we can make testing routine and help identify the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are unaware that they are infected.”
The HIV test used in the project employs a mouth swab and takes about 20 minutes to yield an initial result. In case of a positive test, patients will be referred for a blood test for follow-up testing. At a Walgreens pharmacy in Washington, DC, that is participating in the program, the Associated Press reports that the availability of HIV testing is clearly advertised, but testing takes place in a private room and customers can request a test discreetly by handing a request card to a clerk. Other locations already selected for the project include Chicago; Lithonia, Georgia; Billings, Montana; and Chicago.

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