In March 2012, BioScrip Pharmacy, currently Community, A Walgreens Pharmacy, launched the first pharmacy-based rapid HIV and hepatitis C testing program in the nation. The program, which was spearheaded by Pharmacist-in-Charge Heather Free, was created to address what she felt was a large need they saw in the DC area for education and services around these two conditions. She received training with the Washington, D.C. Department of Health and applied for a CLIA waiver to enable testing to be conducted on site in the pharmacy.
“As pharmacists, we have a duty to educate our patients,” said Free. “People are very trustful of their pharmacist, so when information and testing is offered by their pharmacist, people are often not as fearful as they might be in other situations.”
The pharmacy offers simultaneous rapid hepatitis C and rapid HIV testing, both with OraQuick® rapid test. The screening is offered free to the public during pharmacy business hours. It is convenient for customers waiting for prescriptions to be filled or shopping for other health supplies, as accurate results are delivered in 20 minutes.
“The program is based on knowing your status, and knowing prevention measures, and if needed – knowing how to medicate and adhere to the treatment program,” said Free.
Dr. Free has been actively educating her HIV patients on the symptoms and risk factors for hepatitis C, and encouraging them to get tested. Testing is open to the public. If a patient tests positive for hepatitis C or HIV, they are immediately connected to care through the pharmacy, which has established links with healthcare professionals in the community.
To date, Community Pharmacy has tested more than 60 people for both hepatitis C and HIV, and has identified 3 clients who were newly diagnosed with HCV and linked to care.
The pharmacy has had an overwhelmingly positive response to the test.
“Patients have traveled over 15 miles to get tested and brought friends and family with them,” said Free.
Moving forward, Community Pharmacy plans to continue to grow the program and help educate the Washington, D.C. community on the risk factors for hepatitis C and the importance of learning your status if you think you may be at risk.
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