Study Links Promotional Challenges to Patient Use of HIV Screenings in Pharmacies

Results presented at the 2021 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition cite advertising and marketing difficulties as main barrier to success of point-of-care service.

Pharmacists might be able to increase the number of patients who seek point-of-care screening for HIV with improved advertisement and marketing for the service. A survey of Iowa pharmacists showed the difficulties of advertising and marketing as the main barrier for getting patients to receive point-of-care HIV screenings.1

The study was conducted by a team affiliated with Greenwood Pharmacy and Compounding Center, Waterloo, Iowa; and the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, led by Madison R. McDonald, PharmD. Results of the study were presented with a poster and presentation by McDonald during the virtual 2021 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting and Exposition.1

Supported by funding provided by the APhA Foundation, this study was started in January 2019 and conducted with a dozen community pharmacies, including 3 in health care facilities. These pharmacies were all participating in the Iowa Pharmacy Association/Iowa Department of Health HIV screening project,1 which implements routine HIV screenings in community-based pharmacies within high-risk counties and provides technical assistance and training to pharmacists.2

The goal of the program was to increase access to HIV screening services in the communities served by the studied pharmacies. According to McDonald, a PGY-1 community-based pharmacy resident at Greenwood Pharmacy and Compounding Center, HIV point-of-care screenings were provided at no cost to the patients using the service.1

“The point-of-care HIV screening service is a multi-step process that includes the point-of-care screening itself as well as patient counsel prior to and following the test results, as well as a referral for any reactive or otherwise known as a preliminary positive result” McDonald said during her presentation.1

Investigators assessed the program at each studied site through a 2-part electronic survey. The surveys were completed by pharmacy team members who had completed training for HIV point-of-care screening. According to McDonald, the responding individuals included clinical pharmacists, pharmacy managers, and pharmacy co-owners.1

Pharmacists surveyed indicated they worked to overcome the marketing barrier by using social media, local news outlets, and in-pharmacy advertisements to draw attention to the HIV screening service.1

In addition to marketing and advertising challenges, barriers to care cited by respondents included interest within their communities, and pharmacists’ time. Investigators also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on the screening program with fewer patients seeking the service once face-to-face interactions became limited, starting in early 2020.1

Investigators also found that although some participating pharmacists had no prior experience with point-of-care testing, the majority of respondents reported being comfortable with providing the HIV screenings as well as patient education after receiving training. However, some participating pharmacists expressed a desire for more training for counseling patients about screening results.1


  1. McDonald MR, Witry MJ, Veach S, Urmie J, Nichols RE. Evaluation of barriers and facilitators to providing point-of-care HIV screenings in the community pharmacy setting. Presented at: 2021 APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition; virtual. March 12-15, 2021.
  2. HIV and HCM screening project resources. Iowa Pharmacy Association. Accessed March 16, 2021.