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Emergency Room HIV Testing Initiative

AGH Launches Emergency Room HIV Testing Initiative

By Jennifer Davis, Staff Writer

As the United States marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the HIV virus and AIDS, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) has initiated a widespread screening program, making HIV testing available to nearly every patient seen in its Emergency Department.

AGH has partnered with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (PEHTI) in its mission to see that HIV testing becomes a
routine part of health care, just like checking blood pressure.

“This is a nationwide effort that stems from the fact that we’re 30 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than a million Americans are infected, and 56,000 new cases are diagnosed annually,” said Mobola Kukoyi, MPH, project coordinator for PEHTI.

HIV information and screening was offered in the Emergency Department at AGH beginning in December. Hospital staff are refining the processes for the screenings with the goal of offering tests to every Emergency Department patient between the ages of 13 and 64, in compliance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, more recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“The screening involves a non-invasive swab of the gums and patients are given a negative or ‘reactive’ result before they leave,” according to Laura McNeil, RN, Nurse Educator, AGH Emergency Department. “Reactive tests don’t necessarily indicate that a patient is positive for HIV, just that follow-up testing is needed.”

Any patients with a “reactive” result to the rapid HIV screening will receive a blood test and be referred to Allegheny General’s Positive Health Clinic to receive their results, additional information and any necessary counseling.

Since 2002, West Penn Allegheny Health System has offered early HIV intervention and treatment in the Positive Health Clinic. Funded by a federal grant under the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990, Positive Health provides services to meet the complex needs of people living with HIV and their loved ones, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.

Patients who decline to be tested will still receive information on HIV, the importance of screening and where tests are available.

“We want to drive home the message that if you’re sexually active, you’ve got to get tested – period,” said Mary Gallagher, Positive Health Clinic Manager.

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