announced Tuesday a pilot program that will bring confidential rapid HIV testing to rural and urban pharmacies.
The CDC will train select pharmacists and retail store clinic staff on HIV testing in an effort to extend HIV testing and counseling into the standard everyday services offered by pharmacies and retail clinics.
The results of the pilot program will be used to implement HIV testing in retail pharmacies nationwide.
"We know that getting people tested, diagnosed and linked to care are critical steps in reducing new HIV infections,” Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a news release. “By bringing HIV testing into pharmacies, we believe we can reach more people by making testing more accessible and also reduce the stigma associated with HIV.”
The two-year pilot program includes training for staff in community pharmacies and retail clinics in 12 urban areas and 12 rural areas with high HIV prevalence or significant unmet HIV testing needs.
CDC estimates that 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, yet nearly 1 in 5 remains unaware of the infection. In addition, one-third of those with HIV are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they develop AIDS within one year, missing years of opportunities to receive life-extending medical care and treatment, and potentially reduce transmission to partners.
Community pharmacies and retail clinics, with their convenience and easy accessibility, could play a critical role in ensuring more Americans have access to an HIV test, according to experts.
Data suggests that millions of Americans enter pharmacies every week, and an estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 10-minute drive of a retail clinic.
“Our goal is to make HIV testing as routine as a blood pressure check,” Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said. “This initiative is one example of how we can make testing routine and help identify the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are unaware that they are infected.”
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/hiv.
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