A report by Katerina Christopoulos, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, UCSF HIV/AIDS Division at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center:
Ever felt like you were wasting time at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Now you can accomplish key health screening by getting a rapid HIV test while you wait.
In an innovative partnership between community-based organization Family and Medical Counseling Service and the Penn Branch DMV in in southeast Washington, D.C., individuals can get tested for HIV without losing their place in line – and get $7 off their DMV service. Counselors emphasize the importance of getting an HIV test before offering the test and clients are taken into a private room for an oral swab that gives results in 20 minutes.
A compelling presentation in session at the International AIDS Conference by Angela Wood, the social worker who leads the program, demonstrated the power of partnering with local political leaders in establishing HIV testing in non-traditional settings. Wood described getting buy-in first from the city council, who then supported her meeting with the head of the DMV.
Since October 2010, the program has tested nearly 9,000 clients with a test positivity rate of 0.5%, diagnosing 49 individuals with HIV. The majority of these HIV diagnoses represent new infections, though some are individuals who want to re-engage with care.
All individuals who test HIV positive receive immediate, discreet linkage to care services with escort to a community site where they can undergo confirmatory testing, access social work services, and receive an appointment with a medical provider within two weeks.
Though the acceptance rate of testing is around 15 percent, 40 to 50 people test per day, which almost exceeds the capacity of the two counselors who conduct testing. Use of an electronic medical record on-site to record test results allows the program to track testing numbers and review prior test results.
In a city where HIV rates in certain neighborhoods are comparable to parts of Africa, this program represents a truly creative effort to expand and normalize HIV testing and a remarkable collaboration between government and public health.