ATLANTA, June 26 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials said they are training pharmacists and retail clinic staff at 24 rural and urban sites to deliver confidential, rapid HIV testing.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the goal of the initiative is to extend HIV testing and counseling into standard everyday services offered by pharmacies and retail clinics, as part of a CDC effort to have all adults and adolescents tested for HIV at least once in their lives.
Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, said the CDC estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States, but nearly 1-in-5 was unaware they were infected.
In addition, one-third of those with HIV were diagnosed so late in the course of their infection they developed AIDS within one year, missing years of opportunities to receive life-extending medical care and treatment and potentially reduce transmission to partners.
"We know that getting people tested, diagnosed and linked to care are critical steps in reducing new HIV infections," Fenton said in a statement. "By bringing HIV testing into pharmacies, we believe we can reach more people by making testing more accessible and also reduce the stigma associated with HIV."
Compared to healthcare settings and conventional HIV testing sites, pharmacies and retail clinics might provide an environment that is more accessible to those who may be anxious about seeking an HIV test, CDC officials said.