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E. Should Hospital Patients Be Screened for HIV?

Narrator: This is Science Today. Should hospital patients be routinely screened for HIV infection? That's one of the questions asked by a team of researchers led by Peter Lurie of the University of California, San Francisco. The advantage is that more infections would be found earlier, so more people could be referred to counseling and treatment. The disadvantage is money.

Lurie: The basic finding is that the more HIV infection exists in an inpatient population, the more cost-effective testing to find that infection will be. So if the infection is very rare, it will cost enormous amounts of money simply to find an infection.

Narrator: The researchers concluded that testing would be cost-effective in the one out of five American hospitals where the HIV rate among patients is known to be one percent or more. But Lurie points out there are other considerations, such as patient privacy and whether it would be the best use of scarce HIV prevention funds.

Lurie: It is only once those considerations have been adequately enumerated and then addressed that one should even begin to consider HIV testing in an inpatient population.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.