Objective: We compare rates of rapid HIV testing, test offer, and acceptance in an urban emergency department (ED) when conducted by dedicated HIV counselors versus current members of the ED staff.
Methods: The Universal Screening for HIV Infection in the Emergency Room [USHER] trial is a prospective randomized controlled trial that implemented an HIV screening program in the ED of an urban tertiary medical center. ED patients were screened and consented for trial enrollment by an USHER research assistant. Eligible subjects were randomized to rapid HIV testing (oral OraQuick) offered by a dedicated counselor (counselor arm) or by an ED provider (provider arm). In the counselor arm, counselors-without other clinical responsibilities-assumed nearly all testing-related activities (consent, counseling, delivery of test results). In the provider arm, trained ED emergency service assistants (nursing assistants) consented and tested the participant in the context of other ED-related responsibilities. In this arm, ED house officers, physician assistants, or attending physicians provided HIV test results to trial participants. Outcome measures were rates of HIV testing and test offer among individuals consenting for study participation. Among individuals offered the test, test acceptance was also measured.
Results: From February 2007 through July 2008, 8,187 eligible patients were approached in the ED, and 4,855 (59%) consented and were randomized to trial participation. The mean age was 37 years, 65% were women, and 42% were white. The overall testing rate favored the counselor arm (57% versus 27%; P<.001); 80% (1,959/2,446) of subjects in the counselor arm were offered an HIV test compared with 36% (861/2,409) in the provider arm (P<.001). HIV test acceptance was slightly higher in the provider arm (counselor arm 71% versus provider arm 75%; P = .025).
Conclusion: Routine rapid HIV testing in the ED was accomplished more frequently by dedicated HIV counselors than by ED staff in the course of routine clinical work. Without dedicated staff, HIV testing in this setting may not be truly routine.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Mosby, Inc.