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Massachusetts Needs an Integrated, Comprehensive HIV Testing Plan

Posted Jun 17 2009 6:14pm

More than 8,000 of the estimated 25,000 Massachusetts residents who are living with HIV do not yet know their HIV status. About one third of people who are newly diagnosed with HIV each year have already progressed to an AIDS diagnosis making it more difficult and costly to manage and treat their disease.

These statistics are especially alarming in a state that has pioneered health care reform and has arguably one of the best HIV service systems in the country.  It is imperative that we find new ways of identifying people living with HIV and connect them to care.   Effective, integrated HIV screening in a variety of settings has the potential to help many people with HIV learn about their status earlier and gain timely access to HIV care and treatment.  Early testing is also critical to stopping the spread of new infections.

One of AIDS Action Committee’s primary goals is to find people who are unaware of their HIV status and connect them to care.  In order to reach this goal we need a robust HIV testing system  that is designed not only to screen more people for HIV, but one that simultaneously identifies those people at greatest risk for HIV infection who will likely not be seen in traditional medical settings.

To meet these objectives requires the development of a comprehensive and aggressive HIV testing plan that includes the following elements:

  • Integration of HIV screening and testing in clinical settings
  • Assurance of patient confidentiality
  • Targeted community based testing for people at the highest risk
  • Training for medical professionals that increases HIV testing and prompt recognition of medical indications of HIV infection
  • Prompt referral and retention of HIV positive patients into care
  • Ensure reimbursement mechanisms for HIV screening and HIV diagnosis as part of health care reform

Because such a plan must have broad support, AIDS Action will convene a working group comprised of consumers; HIV advocates, medical professionals; providers; legislators; payers; and lawyers to identify the spectrum of barriers to HIV testing and care and develop strategies to decrease the number of people who do not know their HIV status and get them connected to appropriate care and support.

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