District of Columbia Department of Health Expands HIV Testing Program

The District of Columbia Department of Health announces the expansion of its rapid testing services to residents seeking care at its Southeast STD clinic, and to those entering the D.C. jail system.

HIV continues to be one of the Districts most pressing health concerns, said Gregg A. Pane, MD, director of the Department of Health. This expansion will increase our chances of reaching every District resident with life-saving interventions.

Rapid HIV testing has been shown to increase the likelihood that people get tested and get their results. Results of rapid HIV tests are available the same day, compared to the several days needed to receive results from traditional HIV tests.

The move to expand rapid testing in these critical locations is part of our commitment to fully embrace every opportunity to stop the spread of HIV disease in the District, said Marsha A. Martin, DSW, senior deputy director of the HIV/AIDS Administration. We want every resident to have the information and education needed to make informed choices about their health.

Under a joint agreement with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Testing Initiative, the Health Department provides testing kits and staffing at its Southeast clinic, which has administered several hundred rapid tests since the program began, said Dr. Shukdeo Sankar, medical director of the Southeast STD Clinic. The initiative has been a success, because in the past some patients have been apprehensive about waiting for results, and subsequently declined HIV testing, he said.

According to Department statistics, one in every 20 adults in the District is infected with HIV, and up to one-third dont know they are infected. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40,000 new HIV infections still occur in the United States each year, and about a quarter of the estimated 1 million Americans believed to be HIV positive are unaware of their infection.

Source: District of Columbia Department of Health