HIV testing rates among US youth aged 13-24 years are sub-optimal, with high rates of missed testing opportunities in emergency departments (EDs). We assessed barriers to routine HIV testing of youth in urban ED settings from the perspective of healthcare providers. Ten physicians and nurses were recruited from the pediatric and adult EDs at a high-volume hospital in New York City, USA to complete in-depth interviews to provide their perspectives on barriers to routine HIV testing of youth ages 13 to 24 in EDs. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide with questions and probes. All interviews were conducted via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded independently by two researchers using an inductive thematic analysis approach. Participants often offered HIV testing to youth in the ED based on their perceptions of patients' HIV risk, with pediatric providers sometimes discouraging adolescents they perceived to be at low HIV risk from testing. Participants cited other priorities, logistics of blood-based testing, and discomfort discussing HIV as other reasons for not offering HIV testing to all youth in the ED. Efforts are needed to encourage providers to offer HIV testing to all youth regardless of perceived risk, as the ED often serves as youths' only point of contact with the healthcare system. Emphasis on this and the importance of early detection, along with institutional change, clear guidance, and support for the testing process may help increase youth testing and avoid missed HIV diagnosis opportunities.
Keywords: Adolescent; HIV testing; emergency department; healthcare provider; young adult.