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LUTHERAN HEALTHCARE MAKES HUGE LEAP FORWARD IN HIV SCREENING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LUTHERAN HEALTHCARE MAKES HUGE LEAP FORWARD IN HIV SCREENING
LFHC incorporates HIV rapid testing during routine dental visits

Update - See the new initiative as covered on New York's NY1 on 11/25/08

October 9, 2008, Brooklyn, New York…Beginning in mid December, Lutheran Family Health Centers (one of the largest federally qualified community health networks in the nation) will incorporate HIV rapid testing as an option during routine dental visits.

"This marks a giant leap forward for dental care and HIV testing," says Larry K. McReynolds, executive director, Lutheran Family Health Centers. "By including HIV rapid testing in a routine dental diagnostic visit, we are helping an entirely new population of people learn their status."

In an effort to de-stigmatize the act of getting tested, while also encouraging Americans to "know their status," the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made the recommendation that all individuals aged 13 to 64 get tested.

In March of last year, the LFHC network received a Special Projects of National Significance grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA) to study oral health of HIV patients, and to study and implement rapid testing in dental care in locations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, New York and Arizona.

Screening for the HIV antibodies with the rapid oral test initially requires only a simple swab of the gums. If initially positive, it will be followed up by a confirmatory blood test. The test provides preliminary results within 20 minutes and is 98 percent accurate. A person can be infected with HIV but it could take as many as 10 years before they begin to show symptoms, which is why it is important for everyone to get tested and to "know their status."

Lutheran's work in the AIDS community is extensive. The Lutheran Family Health Centers have been committed to educating and serving HIV positive and those at-risk in Brooklyn communities for 20 years. In 1988, Lutheran's Special Care Immunology Services Program was named a N.Y.S. Department of Health Designated HIV/AIDS Center. In 2003, Lutheran was the recipient of HRSA's first "US/Caribbean HIV/AIDS Twinning Collaborative" award to form a bi-lateral relationship to improve AIDS care in the Caribbean and the United States. In 2007, through community outreach and outpatients visits, the Lutheran HealthCare network provided 4,583 rapid HIV tests in Brooklyn.

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