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Optimizing Screening for HIV

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Creative Commons 'BY-ND' version 4.0 license


The HIV epidemic is unevenly distributed throughout the United States, even within neighborhoods. This study evaluated how effectively current testing approaches reached persons at risk for HIV infection across San Diego (SD) County, California.


HIV case and testing data, sexually transmitted infection (STI) data, and sociodemographic data for SD County were collected from the SD Health and Human Services Agency and the "Early Test" community-based HIV screening program between 1998 and 2016. Relationships between HIV diagnoses, HIV prevalence, and STI diagnoses with screening at the ZIP code level were evaluated.


Overall, 379 074 HIV tests were performed. The numbers of HIV tests performed on persons residing in a ZIP code or region overall strongly correlated with prevalent HIV cases (R 2 = .714), new HIV diagnoses (R 2 = .798), and STI diagnoses (R 2 = .768 [chlamydia], .836 [gonorrhea], .655 [syphilis]) in those regions. ZIP codes with the highest HIV prevalence had the highest number of tests per resident and fewest number of tests per diagnosis. Even though most screening tests occurred at fixed venues located in high-prevalence areas, screening of residents from lower-prevalence areas was mostly proportional to the prevalence of HIV and rates of new HIV and STI diagnoses in those locales.


This study supported the ability of a small number of standalone testing centers to reach at-risk populations dispersed across SD County. These methods can also be used to highlight geographic areas or demographic segments that may benefit from more intensive screening.

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