PA, North Shore University Hospital ED
Routine HIV testing in NYS emergency departments is an extremely valuable opportunity for early diagnosis in patients who are unaware of their HIV positive status. If we miss the chance to identify these patients in the ED, many will not be diagnosed until they have already progressed to symptomatic AIDS.Read Your Stories
Here are some frequently asked questions from the field...
- What about HIV pre-test counselling?
Detailed pre-test counselling is now recognized as a barrier to testing. Therefore, recommendations have changed, and detailed pre-test counselling is no longer required before an HIV test.
- What should I say if a patient asks why they are being tested?
- Remind them that an HIV test is something you do as part of routine health care, and that they are not being singled out. Knowing your HIV status is important for your health care.
- Early HIV symptoms can be missed and many do not show symptoms for many years. During this time, an HIV positive person’s health is deteriorating and they may be spreading HIV to others.
- HIV treatment prolongs and improves people’s lives. You don’t know if you need treatment unless you get the test.
- Why test patients with no risk factors?
- Everyone who has ever been sexually active is at some risk of HIV.
- Patients don’t always know if they are at risk and they rarely tell their health care providers even if they do know.
- Testing based on risk factors simply hasn’t worked. By contrast, we have virtually eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission by testing almost all pregnant women, most of whom are at very low risk.
- HIV testing is simple, inexpensive, and acceptable to most patients.
- What if the patient doesn’t want an HIV test?
As with every medical intervention, the patient has the right to refuse an HIV test. However, it is important to inform the patient that knowing their HIV status is important for their health.