Information for Client Service Providers
Details for Vermont's First Line of Defense in HIV Testing and Prevention
If you are a medical provider and have questions please visit the Fletcher Allen Health Care Infectious Disease website for information about the Comprehensive Care Clinics and our medical services for HIV+/AIDS clients.
AIDS is under control – or is it?
The Vermont Department of Health estimates that approximately 100 people living in the state do not know they are infected with HIV. Early diagnosis is key in providing medications before a person ever gets sick from the virus, perhaps preventing that person from ever developing the devastating symptoms of AIDS. In addition, research shows that when a person is aware of his/her HIV status he or she is much more likely to take precautions not to transmit to their partners. Timely treatment of the virus has been shown to dramatically reduce infectiousness, thereby further protecting the patient’s partners and the community at large.
Why should I talk to my clients about HIV testing?
Many people do not get HIV tests because they think they do not need one or because they are fearful of the results. Talking with them will help allay these worries and open them up to not only the test, but to life-saving treatments if necessary. It also helps to give them information that they can pass on to others.
In 2011 the Comprehensive Care Clinics of Fletcher Allen Health Care were awarded a grant from the Vermont Department of Health to promote HIV testing of all Vermonters. The Health Department and Comprehensive Care Clinics are concerned that every Vermonter should know his/her HIV status and, if positive, be connected to care and have access to the life-saving treatments that are now available to people living with the HIV virus.
How should I bring up the topic of HIV testing?
HIV testing should be presented as a routine part of health care. No one is immune to HIV infection. The CDC recommends that anyone who is sexually active should be tested at least once. Depending on behavioral/risk issues some people should be tested on a regular basis. The discussion should be frank, confident and matter of fact. The more comfortable you are, the more confident your client will feel. THERE SHOULD BE NO STIGMA ATTACHED TO OFFERING OR REQUESTING AN HIV TEST.
Who should be considered high risk for HIV?
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS! Anyone can be at risk for HIV and not realize it. Creating risk groups in our minds blinds us to possible risk behaviors. The existence of “risk groups” leads to stigma and increases fear of testing in the client.
What behaviors/conditions warrant an HIV test?
Knowing your client and their risk issues is an important part of health care. Some clients will have ongoing risk in their lives and should consider HIV testing a regular part of their health care. Your client may not always want to share their behaviors with you. Developing a trusting and non-judgmental relationship will help them feel comfortable in disclosing their own worries about behavioral risk. These can include but may not be limited to:
How can I make the testing process easier for my client?
The GetTestedVermont website is full of information about various testing methods and venues, including discussions about anonymity/confidentiality and options for treatment. What is most comfortable for your client? It may be a test in the office of a long-trusted family provider, or it may be in the anonymity of one of the free Vermont Department of Health sponsored sites. You can assure your client that no matter where they get tested support and guidance is available.
What if my client tests positive?
The anonymous testing sites are staffed by trained counselors who have extensive support from the Vermont Department of Health and strong links to the Comprehensive Care Clinics for care. Testers will “walk” your client through the process of getting connected to specialty medical care. If the client is tested through your medical practice, a simple call to your nearest Comprehensive Care Clinic will guide you in next steps.
Remember, HIV can now be considered a treatable, chronic condition. Connection to specialized care is key to managing the infection as such. There are numerous financial supports that specialized social workers will help the client access and there is “no questions asked financial support” to allow the client to get the important information they need to make decisions about future care.
GetTestedVermont welcomes your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us through the “Contact Us” link on the About Us page. Or call the Comprehensive Care Clinic at 1-800-358-1144 ext. 4594.