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Recognizing that access to HIV testing, education and care are critical to the treatment and prevention of the complex condition, Walgreens today announced its participation in an innovative Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pilot program to help connect more people with HIV to care.
Through the first phase of the two-year program, select Walgreens pharmacies in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and a select Take Care Clinic in Lithonia, Ga. are offering free HIV testing. The CDC plans to use pilot results from select pharmacies and in-store clinics in urban and rural areas identified as highly impacted by HIV to develop a model that pharmacists and nurse practitioners can use to implement HIV testing throughout the nation.
Testing is free to those getting tested. Walgreens pharmacists and Take Care nurse practitioners are trained to deliver confidential HIV testing and counseling. If a preliminary positive is identified, the provider will refer the patient to a local health care provider for confirmatory testing and care. They will also be given a list of community based organizations to help address other health or social issues.
The Take Care Clinic and all participating Walgreens locations are identified as HIV Centers of Excellence (COE). Pharmacies here are staffed with specially-trained pharmacists who work closely with patients to offer guidance and support with their medication therapy, provide refill reminders and also help identify financial support programs. Walgreens COE pharmacy staff also receive additional education and training about cultural and social issues and challenges related to HIV/AIDS.
Walgreens is uniquely positioned to advance the role of community pharmacy to become a community healthcare provider, and this public-private initiative underscores the value of collaboration in helping to raise awareness about HIV testing, prevention and treatment, says Mike Ellis, Walgreens corporate vice president, specialty and infusion.
Walgreens, the CDC, local elected officials and AIDS service organizations joined together today to announce this public-private collaboration at one of the drugstore chains Washington, D.C. locations.
According to the CDC, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, but nearly one in five of those infected is unaware of their condition.
Ensuring that all Americans know their HIV status is critical to reducing new infections, says Kevin Fenton, MD, director of CDCs National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. Collaborating with pharmacists and retail clinic staff to expand HIV testing into community pharmacies allows us to reach more Americans who are unaware of their infection and can ultimately reduce the toll of HIV on the nation.
Walgreens, along with Greater Than AIDS, a coalition of public and private sector partners united in response to the domestic epidemic, are teaming up with local health departments and AIDS organizations to provide free HIV testing at 47 Walgreens stores in 20 cities across the nation between June 27-29 in support of National HIV Testing Day. An additional 138 Walgreens stores in the participating communities are also helping to promote the free testing.
Greater Than AIDS is about communities working together to achieve a greater goal. This effort shows what the public and private sector can achieve when they come together to combat HIV/AIDS, says Tina Hoff, senior vice president and director of health communication and media partnerships for Kaiser Family Foundation, a founding partner of Greater Than AIDS. State and local health departments and AIDS service organizations are coordinating the testing and providing results on site at participating Walgreens locations, as well as supporting outreach. Free HIV tests will be available June 27-29 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at select Walgreens locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. and West Palm Beach.
This marks the second year in a row that Walgreens has worked with Greater Than AIDS and local organizations to bring free HIV testing to communities, with more than twice the number of stores and markets participating in 2012. Last year, nearly 1,000 HIV tests were administered with a number of tests coming back positive.