Chicago Tribune Examines Program That Offers No-Cost HIV Tests in Hospital EDs
The Chicago Tribune on Wednesday examined a CDC-funded program in four Chicago hospitals that offers no-cost HIV tests to emergency department patients. CDC in 2007 gave $35 million in grants to 23 state and local health departments to implement the no-cost HIV testing programs with a goal of testing one million people, particularly blacks who account for about 50% of the estimated one million HIV-positive Americans.
The Chicago Department of Public Health received $3.8 million for the program and distributed $1.3 million to Advocate Trinity, Stroger, Mt. Sinai and Provident hospitals. According to Cathy Yanda, director of HIV Counseling, Testing and Partner Services in Chicago, by the end of last year, 19,907 people had received no-cost HIV tests through the program, and 143 people were found to be HIV-positive.
Donna Sinclair -- health education coordinator for the Rapid HIV Testing Project at Advocate Trinity Hospital, which received about $190,000 for the program -- said the hospital's initial goal was to administer 8,000 HIV tests to ED patients but that the target was increased to 10,000 after so many people responded. Sinclair said that some patients were reluctant to be tested when the program began in May 2008 but that the refusal rate decreased from 65% to 20% as the health workers administering the tests became more comfortable asking people to be tested. She added that the test administrators last summer began offering HIV tests to family and friends of ED patients. People who test positive for HIV are offered counseling, while people who test negative receive information about how to prevent contracting the virus in the future. In addition, staff provide brochures and no-cost condoms.
According to the Tribune, more than 21,000 Chicago residents were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006, and the health department estimates that thousands more people do not know they are HIV-positive (Stone, Chicago Tribune, 3/11).