NEWS | November 28, 2018

Caring for vulnerable populations

UC Davis Medical Center launches testing at-risk patients for hepatitis C and HIV in the emergency department


To reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes among at-risk populations, including the homeless and medically underserved, UC Davis Medical Center began routine testing for HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) this week in the emergency department.

UC Davis Health phlebotomist tests for hepatitis C and HIVThe initiative, funded with a Frontlines of Communities in the United States (FOCUS) grant from Gilead Sciences, covers both screening and case management services to help patients who test positive for HCV find primary care services in the community for ongoing care. The medical center is working in partnership with One Community Health, a local Federally Qualified Health Center for those ongoing services.

“HCV is the most common blood-borne virus in the U.S.,” said Larissa May, associate professor of emergency medicine and principal investigator of the FOCUS grant. “It kills more Americans each year than any other infectious diseases reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but routine testing is not common.

“Many people with HIV are also infected with HCV, yet prevention strategies often only focus on diagnosing and treating just one of these infections,” she said. “By uniting these testing services, we hope to improve disease prevention and have a greater overall impact on the well-being of patients at risk.”

According to the 2015 Sacramento County HIV Annual Surveillance Report, more than 4,100 Sacramento County residents — one out of every 360 — are living with HIV, and the California Department of Public Health estimates that some 400,000 Californians are living with chronic HCV, many of whom do not know they are infected.

Using best screening practices established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in use in the emergency department, UC Davis physicians will test all patients age 18 and older who are deemed at high risk for HIV regardless of the reason for their ER visit. Similarly, all patients age 18 and older or identified as at high risk will be tested for HCV. Patients do have the option to decline the test but it’s important for individuals to know if they are infected.