Constantly Changing: Updated HIV Protocols
By: Mischa Long, RN BSN – Clinic Director

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We are taught in nursing school that medical information is constantly changing and updating.  This fact extends to our sexual health medical clinics.  We at LifeChoices stand right beside you in the battle for continually seeking accurate information.
One recent example is our HIV information and retesting protocol. In the last 10 years, the state laws for HIV testing have changed significantly.
The HIV testing protocol and types of tests used by the laboratory have also changed significantly. Ten years ago when I was trained by the Missouri State Health Laboratory there was a 6-month incubation period with HIV testing due to the type of testing available at that time.  This meant much effort went into educating the client that they would need to return in 6 months for retesting for accurate results.
As of this year, we were notified that the Missouri State Health Laboratory is able to provide a “4th Generation HIV test,” with an incubation period of only 1 month!  With this monumental incubation period change we had to significantly adjust the education given to our clients concerning the accuracy for their test results and the possible need to retest. While your laboratory may not provide this “4th generation test,” or you may not even offer HIV testing yet, it is a good reminder to continually check the information that is given to your clients.
Has your clinic checked with the laboratory to see what the incubation periods are for the tests you provide? Does your clinic have up-to-date information to give the client on each infection they are testing for?  Have all of your staff and volunteers been educated with updated information to pass on to your clients?
We all strive to provide compassionate and accurate services to our clients.  We must continually reassess, double-check and update the information that is presented to our clients in an effort to continue providing the best services.