This week, AIDS tests will become a routine part of Emergency Room care at Vanderbilt Hospital.
The university’s medical center is one of several working with Tennessee’s Health Department to implement new programs to test for the disease. For twelve hours out of the day, each patient will be given a rapid-response HIV test. The only exceptions will be those who choose to opt out or people who aren’t able to sign consent forms, like patients who are not conscious.
Dr. Stephen Raffanti is one of two doctors leading the program. He says recent studies have shown that a significant percentage of people who have HIV don’t realize it. For that reason, he says the focus is shifting from testing high-risk groups to screening the general population.
“The emergency room sort of gives a unique opportunity because people are coming in for urgent health problems, it’s sort of a diverse sampling of the population.”
It takes twenty minutes to know the result of the saliva tests. Raffanti says those who test positive will receive immediate counseling.
The hospital has funding for the program through the end of September, and may continue the project beyond that date.