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Emergency Room HIV Tests Cost-Effective: Study

60% of patients agreed to screening; program suggests model for future use

WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Routine HIV screening in hospital emergency departments is cost-effective and actually welcomed by many patients, a George Washington University Medical School study finds.

More than 4,000 patients were offered the screening and almost 2,500 (60 percent) agreed to be tested. Of those, 26 patients (one percent) had a preliminary positive result for HIV infection.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The rapid screening kits were provided free of charge by the Washington, D.C., Department of Health, while researchers did the actual clinical work. While this approach would not be feasible over the long-term, it does suggest some models for a program of ongoing HIV testing in hospital emergency departments, said study author Jeremy Brown, research director in the university's department of emergency medicine.

He said the cost per preliminary positive HIV result was about $1,700, and about $4,900 per confirmed case of HIV infection.

"Washington, D.C., has one of the highest AIDS case prevalence rates in the United States, and our results suggest that ED HIV screening in this high prevalence area is well accepted by patients," Brown noted.

"The cost per case detected is low when compared with other methods for the early detection of HIV. For example, nucleic acid amplification has been used (for) early detection of HIV infection at a cost of over $17,000 per index case identified."

The study was expected to be presented May 16 at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, in Chicago.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about HIV testing.

SOURCE: Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, news release, May 16, 2007
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