A PAGNY research team had the distinction of publishing its findings about the benefits of HIV testing of psychiatric inpatients in a prestigious medical journal, “Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research.”
Dr. Maryann J. Popiel, Chair of Behavioral Healthcare Services at the North Bronx Healthcare Network (NBHN), who led the research team, says the study disproved the assumption that psychiatric patients won’t accept HIV testing.
“This is a population that is at risk of contracting and spreading the virus and had not been routinely tested,” Dr. Popiel says. “If you don’t know you are positive, you won’t get treated. This will help treat people with HIV and assure people with mental illness get the same standard of treatment and are offered the same treatment. We hope this leads to universal testing of all psychiatric patients whenever possible.”
Dr. Popiel led a 12-person team that conducted the year-long study, titled: “Rapid Routine HIV Testing for Psychiatric Inpatients.” The team offered HIV testing to psychiatric inpatients at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi who had the capacity to consent. Of those offered testing, 62.9 percent, or 405 patients, were tested.
“Rapid HIV testing offers quick, noninvasive screening easily coupled with counseling, confirmatory testing and linkage to care,” the study said. “Routine, rapid screening has already proven widely effective at detecting many undiagnosed cases of HIV in medical settings and linking newly diagnosed patients to care. The majority of patients who receive an HIV diagnosis have been shown to increase condom use or make additional efforts to lower the risk of transmission.”
The study concluded: “Counselor-based rapid testing proved to be acceptable to psychiatric inpatients and an effective model for screening a large number of high-risk and underserved individuals with minimal added burden to the mental health care team.”
Dr. Popiel says the study was the result of collaboration between psychiatrists at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi and the physicians in the hospital’s HIV services department, all of whom recognized that psychiatric patients were often not tested for HIV. “One of the best things about working at this institution is the enthusiastic collaboration between physicians in different departments,” she says. “We all work together for our patients’ best care.”
This HIV testing study has received recognition beyond this journal article. Dr. Popiel presented the research at a ISHEID (International Symposium of HIV and Emerging Infectious Diseases) conference in France two years ago and at PAGNY’s First Annual Research Day in May. This work was also presented at the CROI Conference (Conference of Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections) in Boston earlier this year and a related study has also been accepted for a poster presentation at the IAS Conference (International AIDS Society) in South Africa later this year.
Members of the research team were: Dr. Maryann J. Popiel, Dr. Vikram Duvvi, Psychiatrist, Jacobi Department of Psychiatry; Dr. Albert Turkieh, Internist, Jacobi Department of Psychiatry; Dr. Ethan Cowan, Jacobi Department of Emergency Medicine; Dr. Yvette Calderon, Site Director of Emergency Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx; Dr. Christian Umfrid, medical student at Jacobi; Jason Leider, Director of HIV at the North Bronx Healthcare Network, and five Jacobi public health advocates: Kelly M. Chacón, Julia Krauss, Anuj Rao, Jennifer Zahn and Uttara Gadde.