Walgreen Co. is participating in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pilot through which it will offer free HIV testing.

Walgreens, CDC, free HIV tests, HIV testing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Take Care Clinic, community pharmacy, Mike Ellis, HIV/AIDS, HIV Centers of Excellence, Walgreens COE pharmacy, Walgreens pharmacists, Kevin Fenton, Greater Than AIDS

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In CDC pilot, Walgreens provides free HIV tests

June 26th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. is participating in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pilot through which it will offer free HIV testing.

Walgreens said Tuesday that in the first phase of the two-year program, which aims to connect more people with HIV to care, select Walgreens pharmacies in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and a Take Care Clinic in Lithonia, Ga., are providing free HIV tests.

Plans call for the CDC to use pilot results from select pharmacies and in-store clinics in urban and rural areas identified as highly impacted by HIV to craft a model that pharmacists and nurse practitioners can use to implement HIV testing nationwide, according to the drug store chain.

"Walgreens is uniquely positioned to advance the role of community pharmacy to become a community health care provider, and this public-private initiative underscores the value of collaboration in helping to raise awareness about HIV testing, prevention and treatment," Mike Ellis, corporate vice president of specialty and infusion at Walgreens, said in a statement.

The drug chain noted that Walgreens pharmacists and Take Care nurse practitioners are trained to deliver confidential HIV testing and counseling. If a preliminary positive is identified, the pharmacist or nurse practitioner will refer the patient to a local health care provider for confirmatory testing and care. Those patients also will receive a list of community organizations to help address other health or social issues.

The Take Care Clinic and all participating Walgreens locations are identified as HIV Centers of Excellence (COE), Walgreens said. Pharmacies in those locations are staffed with specially trained pharmacists who work closely with patients to offer guidance and support with their medication therapy, provide refill reminders and help identify financial support programs. Walgreens COE pharmacy staff also receive additional education and training about cultural and social issues and challenges related to HIV/AIDS.

According to the CDC, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV, but nearly one in five of those infected is unaware of their condition.

"Ensuring that all Americans know their HIV status is critical to reducing new infections," stated Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. "Collaborating with pharmacists and retail clinic staff to expand HIV testing into community pharmacies allows us to reach more Americans who are unaware of their infection and can ultimately reduce the toll of HIV on the nation."

Walgreens added that it has teamed up with Greater Than AIDS, a coalition of public and private sector partners, and local health departments and AIDS organizations to provide free HIV testing at 47 Walgreens stores in 20 cities from June 27 to 29 in support of National HIV Testing Day. Another 138 Walgreens stores in the participating communities are also helping to promote the free testing.

The chain said the effort marks the second straight year that Walgreens has worked with Greater Than AIDS and local organizations to bring free HIV tests to communities, with more than twice the number of stores and markets participating in 2012. Last year, nearly 1,000 HIV tests were administered, with a number of tests coming back positive.