Washington Blade (12.18.2013)
The Washington Blade reported that Washington D.C.’s United Medical Center now offers patients an HIV test that can confirm diagnoses just two weeks after infection. Gilead Sciences’ HIV Focus Program provided a grant to install a machine for the early screenings. Other health service providers also received support to expand HIV testing in the District.
Traditional HIV testing, which detects HIV antibodies, takes two to three months to register positive. “If you feel fine for up to three months, you could still be having sex with people but you’re really infectious,” said Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, medical director for United Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Care Center. “It’s our best chance of arresting infection, reducing transmission, and preserving people’s immune function,” Fitzpatrick said.
According to Fitzpatrick, three people already have tested HIV-positive with early infection and high viral loads. One patient, a gay man from Southeast D.C., tested positive after feeling flu-like symptoms for a week. He said he was surprised but knew it was a possibility. Early diagnosis means early treatment and linkage to services, which Fitzpatrick said is an important component to fighting the epidemic. “HIV needs to get integrated into our conversations about health and wellness and chronic diseases,” she said.”
The city’s annual epidemiology report shows 2.4 percent of D.C. residents were HIV-positive at the end of 2011. The leading methods of transmission were men who have sex with men and heterosexual contact, although the report disclosed that the rate of transmission for both both methods decreased 46 percent since 2007.