Tina Fineberg/AP
Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

Is Universal Testing the Answer to Bronx HIV Problem?

July 17, 2008 05:56 AM
by Cara McDonough
The New York City Department of Health wants to make HIV testing a routine part of medical care in the Bronx, but the plan is meeting resistance.

30-Second Summary

The death rate from AIDS in the Bronx—one of New York City’s five boroughs—is nearly 10 times the national average, which health officials attribute to the fact that about 25 percent of residents “only learn they are affected after the disease has progressed to full-blown AIDS,” Time magazine reports.

The new plan, announced at the end of June, would encourage, but not require, HIV testing for all residents older than 18 during regular medical visits.

To achieve this goal, the health department has agreed to simplify the testing process in the Bronx, eliminating pretesting counseling normally required, which has some in the health industry worried.

“The whole point of testing is prevention and the counseling piece is what provides people with the tools,” said Carolina Lopez, executive director of New York Harm Reduction Educators.

Other doctors and nonprofit groups that deal with a large number of HIV-positive patients have yet to fully embrace the plan, fearing that practical application of such an ambitious program will be nearly impossible.

“Changing paradigms is hard,” said Dr. Donna Futterman, an AIDS specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and one of the organizers of the plan, “and this is a paradigm shift.”

But if the plan works, it could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the country, where other efforts have failed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly encouraged routine HIV testing, without success. Washington, D.C., made a valiant effort to test 450,000 city residents in 2006, but the program reached only about 10 percent of the goal.

Headline Link: ‘A Battle in the Bronx Over HIV Testing’

Background: Other routine HIV testing efforts unsuccessful

Related Topic: The push for a mandatory HPV vaccine

Reference: The Bronx testing initiative; HIV/AIDS


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