Routine HIV Screening in the Emergency Department Using the New US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines: Results From a High-Prevalence Area

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In 2006, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new recommendations for routine HIV testing. Among these were recommendations that emergency departments (EDs) offer routine opt-out HIV screening to their patients. We established a screening program implementing these recommendations at an urban university hospital ED in Washington, DC. We report the results of this program.


During a 3-month period, ED patients being treated for a wide range of conditions were approached by trained HIV screeners and offered point-of-care rapid HIV testing. Patients with positive results were referred to hospital or community resources for confirmatory testing and treatment.


During the program period, 14,986 patients were treated in the ED and 4151 (27.6%) were offered HIV screening. The mean patient age was 37.5 years; 48.5% were black, 39.0% were non-Hispanic white, 4.1% were Hispanic, 1.7% were Asian, and 6.7% responded as being other race. A total of 56.1% were female, and most lived within the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Of the patients offered HIV screening, 2476 (59.7%) accepted the test. Of the 26 patients with a preliminary positive screen, 13 were lost to follow-up, 9 were confirmed positive by Western blot, and 4 were confirmed negative by Western blot. Eight of the 9 patients with confirmed HIV infection were successfully linked to follow-up care.


The implementation of the CDC recommendations establishing routine opt-out HIV screening programs in EDs is feasible. Further efforts to establish routine ED HIV testing are therefore warranted.

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