Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2008 12:00 AM ET
are trying to persuade doctors to offer HIV tests to
nearly every patient in a New York City community hit harder
than most by AIDS.
Under a new
program announced Thursday, officials have set an ambitious
goal of testing a quarter million adults in the Bronx, one
of five boroughs that make up New York City, within
''We need every
single individual to know their status,'' said Dr. Monica
Sweeney, an assistant health commissioner who specializes in
Like dozens of
other states, New York now requires doctors to obtain a
patient's written consent and provide a brief counseling
session before giving them a test for the AIDS virus,
a process that can take up to 20 minutes. That's
enough to deter doctors and nurses from suggesting HIV
tests to patients routinely, according to the city.
want health clinics to offer the tests to anyone who seeks
care, even for something as simple as a broken wrist.
officials recommended routine HIV testing for all
Americans ages 13 to 64 nearly two years go, but the effort
has stalled. Some doctors have questioned whether so
much testing is necessary, or worth the bureaucratic
HIV testing in
the Bronx is already fairly widespread. Nearly seven out
of 10 Bronx adults have been tested at least once in their
lifetime. But as many as 250,000 adults have never
been tested, and statistics indicate that many are
diagnosed far too late.
AIDS killed 357
residents of the borough in 2006, about a third of all
AIDS deaths in the city.
officials have also urged changes in state law that would do
away with both the consent form and the mandated counseling
sessions, arguing that they have little benefit. Those
changes have been opposed by some AIDS activists.
''We find that
period of time extremely useful,'' said Marjorie Hill,
chief executive officer of the Gay Men's Health Crisis.
She said it gives
doctors a time to talk with patients about ways to
avoid HIV or to deal with an HIV infection. (David Caruso,