Even though HIV cases are increasing nationally, the university will not be following a new federal recommendation to routinely test people ages 13 to 64.The federal government now recommends routine HIV-testing for people ages 13 to 64 without requiring pretest counseling or signing a patient consent form, but TCU will continue to give HIV tests only upon request, said Marilyn Hallam, the assistant to the director of Health Services.
If the recommendation is enacted by Texas law, the consent form needed to test for HIV will no longer be mandatory, said Mark Wilson, Tarrant County Public Health Department’s program manager for Adult Health Services.
Laura Crawley, assistant dean of Campus Life for health promotion, said the recommendation was announced Sept. 22.
“It’s just a government guideline, not a mandate,” Crawley said, explaining why TCU does not have to implement it.
Hallam said the Health Center does not initiate HIV tests.
They must be requested and approved by the patient’s doctor, Crawley said.
Hallam said in her 22 years of Health Center employment, TCU has only done HIV tests upon request and will continue to do so, she said.
“It’s not something that is going to be arbitrarily done,” Hallam said. “Here at the Health Center, we never, never run tests that are not ordered by the doctor.”
In the past, HIV was considered a separate infection from all other STDs, and therefore, a patient consent form was required for a physician to administer an HIV test, Wilson said.
According to a Sept. 22 Washington Post article, if medical providers comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices will include HIV-testing for people in the 13 to 64 age range as part of all routine blood exams that test blood sugar, kidney function and hemoglobin count, not just specific cases such as pregnancy.
Doctors in the United States perform 16 million to 22 million annual HIV tests, according to the Washington Post article.
Kathleen Baldwin, director of graduate studies in nursing, said the government made the suggestion because, despite the large number of tests, 250,000 Americans are unknowingly infected, 40 percent of those infected are diagnosed too late and the number of annual new infections in the United States has not decreased in 15 years.
“Universal screening for HIV infection seems like a reasonable way to impact this national epidemic that does not seem to be resolving with current less aggressive measures,” said Baldwin. “Early diagnosis and treatment remain the cornerstones for living with HIV.”
Donelle Barnes, associate professor for the School of Nursing, said receiving treatment early is important.
“If people are not getting treatment early, then we know they’re going to die sooner and probably with a poor quality of life,” Barnes said.
Barnes said although routine testing is good, it could be expensive, which she said may be why it is not applied on campus. She said that is why she believes people only need to be tested if they are sexually active.
“Health care is a business,” Barnes said.
Hallam said cost is not a factor, it’s university policy.
“We’re not running an HIV clinic,” Hallam said.
Despite TCU’s policy, Hallam said information on HIV is available through campus presentations and the TCU Web site. Hallam also said there are certain cases where the Health Center will suggest HIV-testing as a result of an exam.
Barnes said students should be given an option to receive the test.
“My personal opinion is any sexually active college student should be offered an HIV test,” Barnes said. “College students are frequently sexually active and may be experimenting with multiple partners, unfortunately increasing their risk of HIV,” Barnes said. “They’re not really being proactive enough.”
Sophomore nursing major Becki Janke said routine HIV-testing would help obtain a more accurate number of HIV cases.
“I would do it and would encourage my patients to,” Janke said.
Sophomore nursing major Bridgette Hecht said testing should be dependant on each person’s history and that if offered, she would not get an HIV test.
“I am aware of my sexual history and I know that I don’t have any infectious diseases like HIV, so I don’t feel like I need to be tested,” Hecht said.
Sophomore nursing major Ron Gallegos said patients should be tested if they give permission and he would allow for an HIV test unless he had to pay for it.
“If it is something that the government is promoting then I believe the insurance should pay,” Gallegos said.