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Busy Doctors Embrace Routine HIV Testing

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla recommends an HIV test almost every time she sees a patient at her internal medicine office in Davie.

Her patients get checked for HIV along with their other blood tests unless they specifically say no – a practice known as routine testing that is becoming a major weapon to combat the virus.

A growing number of physicians are joining Dr. Haffizulla in embracing routine HIV tests, as strongly encouraged by the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If doctors don't urge patients to get an HIV test, patients should ask their doctors for one.

"Routine testing and prevention education is of the utmost importance here. Broward County ranks #2 for number of new HIV cases and AIDS cases," Dr Haffizulla says.

"We as clinicians must be proactive on the education, prevention, testing and treatment of HIV," says Dr. Haffizulla, who is also assistant dean of community and global health at Nova Southeastern University's College of Allopathic Medicine says.

Routine HIV testing means more people living with HIV will be diagnosed early, can begin treatment quickly, will be healthier and will be less likely to spread the virus. Also, routine testing helps eliminate any stigma associated with HIV tests.

The CDC recommends routine testing for all people ages 13 to 65, and others if they engage in unprotected sex. The CDC began recommending routine testing for certain people in 1987 and for everyone starting in 2006.

The way it works is the doctor mentions the HIV test when telling patients what will be covered in their blood work. The test will be done unless the patient says no, which is known as opting out.

Many physicians, hospitals (including emergency rooms), clinics and other medical providers have adopted the practice, but DOH-Broward and the CDC would like more to be on board.

In south Broward County, Memorial Healthcare System uses routine testing in its hospital ERs, clinics and its physician offices, says Dr. Deberenia Allen, Medical Director for Memorial's Rapid HIV Testing. So does Broward Health, the public health system in northern Broward, says Trudy Love, HIV early intervention director.

"We tell people this is what we recommend for all the patients," Dr. Allen says. "Sometimes they say, 'No, I don't need it, I'm monogamous.' We say, 'Well, you know what you are doing, but you do not know what your partner is doing. So why not just have the test done for peace of mind? It will only take 15 minutes.' It's rare that they say no."

More information: 954-467-4700, Ext. 4991.

Above content provided by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County


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