Benefits of a routine Opt-Out HIV testing and linkage to care program for previously diagnosed patients in publicly Funded Emergency Departments in Houston, TX

Charlene A. Flash, Siavash Pasalar, Vagish Hemmige, Jessica A. Davila, Camden J. Hallmark, Marlene McNeese, Nancy Miertschin, Michael C. Ruggerio, Thomas P. Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Background: The Routine Universal Screening for HIV program provides opt-out HIV testing and linkage to care for emergency department (ED) patients in Harris Health System, Houston, TX. Seventy-five percent of patients testing positive in this program have been previously diagnosed. Whether linkage to care is increased among these patients is unknown. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of persons tested for HIV in the ED between 2008 and 2012 but had a previously documented positive HIV test ≥1 year prior. Outcomes were engagement in care (≥1 HIV outpatient visits in 6 months), retention in care (≥2 HIV outpatient visits in 12 months, at least 3 months apart), and virologic suppression (<200 copies/mL in 12 months) compared before and after the ED visit. Analysis was conducted using McNemar test and multivariate conditional logistic regression. Results: A total of 202,767 HIV tests identified 2068 previously diagnosed patients. The mean age was 43 years with 65% male and 87% racial and ethnic minorities. Engagement in care increased from 41.3% previsit to 58.8% postvisit (P < 0.001). Retention in care increased from 32.6% previsit to 47.1% postvisit (P < 0.001). Virologic suppression increased from 22.8% previsit to 34.0% postvisit (P < 0.001). Analyses revealed that engagement in care after visit improved most among younger participants (ages 16-24 years), retention improved across all groups, and virologic suppression improved most among participants aged 25-34 years. Conclusions: Routine opt-out HIV testing in an ED paired with standardized service linkage improves engagement, retention, and virologic suppression in previously diagnosed patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S8-S15
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Publication statusPublished - May 2015



  • Engagement in care
  • HIV linkage to care
  • HIV testing
  • Previously diagnosed
  • Retention in care
  • Viral suppression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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