The Florida Department of Health in Broward County is inviting physicians to join a new HIV program in which people will be offered a medical visit and medication the very same day they test positive for HIV.
No more waiting weeks for follow-up tests to confirm the HIV diagnosis, which has been the standard practice. No more waiting for people to make appointments to see an HIV primary care doctor. No more having patients lost to care before their first appointment.
The new program called Test and Treat started on May 1, aiming to serve newly diagnosed individuals or those returning to care after a gap in services. It stems from data showing that starting medicine immediately lowers the amount of virus in the blood, which is important for the health of the individual and decreases transmission of the virus.
DOH-Broward staffers accompany each of the individuals to a physician for an exam and a pharmacy for a 30-day supply of medication. They will be asked to take the first pill on the spot.
DOH-Broward is partnering with registered HIV testing sites, the Broward County Ryan White Part A office, Ryan White HIV primary care providers, hospitals and private physicians to implement Test and Treat.
Organizations that have agreed to be Test and Treat providers are Broward Health, Memorial Healthcare System, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Care Resource and the Broward Community and Family Health Centers.
“We want to close the loop and take that patient right over to be linked to care and get started on medication the same day,” says Dr. Deberenia Allen, Medical Director for Memorial’s Rapid HIV Testing program.
Here’s how it helps:
- When HIV virus in the blood is reduced to undetectable levels, people are far less likely to develop complications, or AIDS.
- People with undetectable levels of HIV reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to sexual partners to almost zero.
- Starting people immediately on medication reduces the chance they will drop out of treatment, which is a persistent problem.
Research shows that as many as 30 percent of people diagnosed with HIV never return for the first doctor appointment, often out of fear, denial, hopelessness, lack of health insurance or other reasons. They don’t receive medication, risking their health and remaining infectious.
People with no health insurance or inadequate coverage can still get medication the same day, through DOH-Broward and the federally funded Ryan White Part A program.
People diagnosed with HIV can ask about Test and Treat when they receive their positive test result.
More information: DOH-Broward at 954-467-4700, Ext. 4991.
Above content provided by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County