CDC Announces Pilot Project for HIV Testing at Pharmacy Retail Clinics

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August 10, 2012

An innovative pilot program recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will train pharmacists and retail store clinic staff to administer HIV tests, provide counseling, and refer those who are diagnosed to appropriate care. During the two-year pilot, which has already begun, staff will be trained at 24 rural and urban sites in the U.S. and the confidential, rapid HIV tests will be free. The pilot is part of an effort across the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a division, to help find ways to increase the number of Americans tested for HIV. Recommendations released by the CDC in 2006 advise that all adults and adolescents get tested at least once in their lives for HIV and that those at increased risk get tested yearly.

"We know that getting people tested, diagnosed and linked to care are critical steps in reducing new HIV infections," said Kevin Fenton, MD, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, in a statement released by the agency. "By bringing HIV testing into pharmacies, we believe we can reach more people by making testing more accessible…"

Recent estimates from the CDC find that about 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States, but 20% are unaware that they are infected. In addition, one-third of people in the U.S. with HIV are diagnosed so late in the course of their infection that they develop AIDS within a year. That can delay treatment and increase potential transmission of the virus to partners.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at the recent AIDS International Conference held in Washington, DC. Fauci said that there are about 50,000 new HIV infections every year, and that many of the new infections are transmitted by people who are unaware of their HIV status. Researchers at the conference said moving testing sites beyond the doctor's office could help increase the number of HIV-positive people who are diagnosed. Community pharmacies are a good choice for testing, according to the CDC, because millions of Americans shop at pharmacies every week and about 30% of Americans live within a 10-minute drive of a retail clinic.

Results of the pilot will be used by the CDC to develop a toolkit that pharmacists and retail clinic staff all over the country will be able to use to implement HIV testing in their stores, following the model of the pilot program. This pilot effort is complemented by the recent approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the first at-home rapid HIV test (see Testing Critical to Reducing HIV, FDA Approves Test for Home Use). Testing at a local pharmacy would give people another option if they are uncomfortable performing the test themselves at home.

Locations for the pilot sites will include Chicago, Washington, DC and Lithonia, Georgia. The pilot sites were chosen by an expert panel that included pharmacists and nurse practitioners. These sites reflect areas of high prevalence of HIV and/or unmet HIV testing needs.

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV In the United States: At a Glance. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed July 2012.

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Food and Drug Administration. FDA Approves First Over-the-Counter Home -Use Rapid HIV Test. Available online at http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm310542.htm through http://www.fda.gov. Accessed July 2012. 

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md, speaking at the American Medical Association AIDS 2012 International Conference Press Conference, July 22, 2012.

Melanie A. Thompson, M.D., AIDS Research Consortium, speaking at the American Medical Association AIDS 2012 International Conference Press Conference, July 22, 2012.

Nikki Mayes, spokesperson. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Email, July 27, 2012.

Reuters. Walgreen, others offer free HIV tests in CDC pilot. June 26, 2012. Available online at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/26/us-walgreen-hiv-idUSBRE85P0UF20120626 through http://www.reuters.com. Accessed July 2012. 

Walgreens Expands Role of Pharmacists Beyond Immunizations. Available online at http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5611 through http://news.walgreens.com. Accessed July 2012.

National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention News Media Line. Contacted August 6, 2012.