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Acute HIV cases double in ED. Is COVID-19 responsible?


Partnership with emergency physicians

Critical to screening these patients is building a solid partnership between ID and ED physicians.

Coauthor Kimberly Stanford, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in emergency medicine at UCM, said, “You need a champion within the emergency department who can help make sure that the work flow is not disrupted, that however you implement your screening program, you’re not putting extra work on the staff.

“We can feel extremely confident that if I send a test and it comes back positive, I know someone is going to call that patient and make sure they get into care.”

Although the testing is performed in the ED at UCM, the follow-up, linkage to care, and initiation of treatment are conducted by the ID specialists.

Beverly E. Sha, MD, professor in the division of infectious diseases, department of internal medicine, Rush Medical College, Chicago, said in an interview that although she agrees that HIV screening programs in EDs “make absolute sense,” there are different ways to conduct such programs. Dr. Sha was not involved in Dr. Pitrak’s study.

At Rush’s ED, she says, HIV testing is linked with a complete blood count.

“If someone presents with fever, we would often be doing that test as well,” she said. “I think just globally increasing screening [in the ED] is what makes the most sense.”

Dr. Sha said they have not seen a similar surge in acute cases in the ED at Rush during the pandemic.

She noted, however, that UCM tested more than 11,000 people for HIV in the ED this year, whereas “we probably only did about 3500.

“The reason testing is so important, whether for HIV or COVID, is the more you test, the more you’re going to find,” she said, “especially in cities like Chicago.”

Dr. Pitrak received grant support from Gilead Sciences. His coauthors and Dr. Sha reported no relevant financial relationships.

This article first appeared on


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