Study objective: We describe outcomes of a rapid HIV testing program integrated into emergency department (ED) services, using existing staff.
Methods: From April 2005 through December 2006, triage nurses in an urban ED offered HIV screening to medically stable patients aged 12 years or older. Clinicians could also order diagnostic testing according to presenting signs and symptoms and suspicion of HIV-related illness. Nurses obtained consent, performed rapid testing, and disclosed negative test results. Clinicians disclosed positive test results and arranged follow-up. Outcome measures included number and proportion of visits during which screening was offered, accepted, and completed; number of visits during which diagnostic testing was completed; and number of patients with confirmed new HIV diagnosis and their CD4 counts.
Results: HIV screening and diagnostic testing were completed in 9,466 (8%) of the 118,324 ED visits (14.2% of the 60,306 unique patients were tested at least once). Screening was offered 45,159 (38.2%) times, accepted 21,626 (18.3%) times, and completed 7,923 (6.7%) times; diagnostic testing was performed 1,543 (1.3%) times. Fifty-five (0.7%) screened patients and 46 (3.0%) of those completing diagnostic testing had confirmed positive HIV test results. Median CD4 count was 356 cells/microL among screened patients and 99 cells/microL among those who received diagnostic testing.
Conclusion: Although existing staff was able to perform HIV screening and diagnostic testing, screening capacity was limited and the HIV prevalence was low in those screened. Diagnostic testing yielded a higher percentage of new HIV diagnoses, but screening identified greater than 50% of those found to be HIV positive, and the median CD4 count was substantially higher among those screened than those completing diagnostic testing.