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Acad Emerg Med. 2008 Feb;15(2):144-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00028.x.

Availability of rapid human immunodeficiency virus testing in academic emergency departments.

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  • 1Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening of emergency department (ED) patients aged 13 to 64 years. The study objectives were to determine the accessibility of rapid HIV testing in academic EDs, to identify factors that influence an ED's adoption of testing, and to describe current HIV testing practices.


Online surveys were sent to EDs affiliated with emergency medicine (EM) residency programs (n = 128), excluding federal hospitals and facilities in U.S. territories. Eighty percent (n = 102) responded. Most e-mail recipients (n = 121) were Emergency Medicine Network (EMNet) investigators; remaining contacts were obtained from residency-related Web sites.


Most academic EDs (n = 58; 57%; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 47% to 66%) offer rapid HIV testing. Among this group, 26 (45%) allow providers to order tests without restrictions. Of the other 32 EDs, 100% have policies allowing for rapid HIV testing following occupational exposures, but less than 10% have guidelines for testing in other clinical situations. Forty-seven percent expect to routinely offer HIV testing in the next 2 to 3 years. Only 59% of the EDs that offered rapid tests in any situation could link an HIV-positive patient to subspecialty care. The facility characteristic most important to availability of rapid HIV testing was the presence of on-site HIV counselors.


Most academic EDs now offer rapid HIV testing (57%), but few use it in situations other than occupational exposure. Less than half of academic EDs expect to implement CDC guidelines regarding routine screening within the next few years. The authors identified facility characteristics (e.g., counseling, ability to refer) that may influence adoption of rapid HIV testing.

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