Arlington, Va. – As public health authorities seek to raise awareness about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing, a study funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation is evaluating a model which may provide patients with increased access to HIV and Hepatitis C testing, and link patients to a specialized physician or health department as needed for further care.

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are providing technical assistance for the Foundation’s study, and other key public health agencies also are partnering on the study. This initiative reflects the priority that the CDC is placing on raising awareness about improving access and awareness regarding HIV testing, as evidenced by the agency’s annual awareness campaign, National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

The NACDS Foundation study, led by principal investigators at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Ferris State University College of Pharmacy, currently is underway in 50 stores with pharmacies, and a total of 75 locations are planned in the greater Detroit, Mich.; West Virginia/Ohio; and Atlanta, Ga., metropolitan areas. The study is designed to evaluate the impact of expanding access to community testing for both HIV and the Hepatitis C virus.

“This study exemplifies key goals of the NACDS Foundation because it combines an identified public health need to improve access to testing and care with awareness and prevention priorities that require collaboration and public engagement,” said NACDS Foundation President Kathleen Jaeger. “Evidence-based research on HIV and Hepatitis C expands upon the NACDS Foundation’s ongoing study of point-of-care testing for flu and strep throat.”

Nearly 45,000 people are diagnosed with HIV every year and approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV. However, one in eight people don’t know they have it. The need for testing and increased awareness is critical, as more than 90 percent of HIV infections in the U.S. could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people with HIV and making sure they receive early, ongoing treatment. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV as part of routine healthcare.

Patients who seek care in participating stores are counseled by trained pharmacists on risk factors and prevention, and those with reactive tests are referred to a physician or health department for confirmatory testing.

The study will evaluate the ability of this model to increase patient screenings and link them to additional care as needed. It will evaluate the number of patients screened, their demographics and test results. For patients with reactive tests, the rates of linkage to care and treatment will be assessed. The study also will identify barriers to follow-up care.

The study is expected to conclude in March 2017.