Spokane County, Wash., Program Pays High-Risk Residents to be Tested for HIV
The Spokane Regional Health District in Washington state has begun an HIV-testing pilot program that aims to test more than 250 high-risk residents, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. The "Know Your Status" program, financed by a one-year $100,000 CDC grant, will pay selected intravenous drug users, prostitutes and gay men $15 for each friend, up to three, they bring in for an anonymous, voluntary HIV test. Each friend who is tested will receive $10 at the time of the test and $20 when they return to receive the test results. AIDS case managers and area physicians referred the first group of 75 residents, who can then bring in friends for testing. During interviews to plan the pilot program, high-risk county residents indicated that money would best motivate their friends to be tested. Program organizers, who based the program on a similar one in Los Angeles, see the project as "a cost-effective way to prevent the spread of HIV." They say that research shows that people who learn about their HIV-positive status stop engaging in behavior that endangers others. Although some may consider the project a "witch hunt" or "bounty hunting," Susan Sjoberg, the health district's HIV/AIDS program manger, said, "The real motivation is the sooner that people learn their HIV status, the better the quality of their life is. They get on medication and they have access to medical care and other services." Project coordinators hope to identify up to 50 HIV-positive people who were previously unaware of their infection. An estimated 1,500 individuals in the county have HIV or AIDS, according to the Spokesman-Review. The health district aims to expand the CDC-monitored program to 19 other counties in eastern Washington in May (Johnson, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.