Walmart is kicking off an HIV screening pilot at two pharmacies in Virginia.
Kevin Host, senior vice president of Walmart health and wellness, pharmacy, announced the pilot in a post on the company's website, in which he said, “Since 1988, Dec. 1 has marked World AIDS Day. It’s telling this day has so long been dedicated to raising awareness: The AIDS pandemic and the spread of HIV has impacted millions of Americans – and continues to do so. At Walmart, we think we can make a difference. That difference starts in the communities we serve with the access we create. Today, we’re proud to announce an HIV screening pilot at two Walmart pharmacies in Virginia, which will offer free HIV screenings and results during the pilot phase.”
Host noted that the pilot, which is set to last three months, is an important first step in the fight against HIV and AIDS in local communities. “Where there’s awareness, and accessible options, there can be proper care. Store 2160 in Petersburg and Store 2795 in Ashland are already HIV-focused Specialty Pharmacies of the Community (SPOC), which means they’re staffed with HIV-trained pharmacists and Community Health Workers who understand patient needs and are uniquely equipped to support HIV/AIDS patients throughout their journey to health,” Host said.
In addition, Host noted that with more than 4,600 pharmacies in the U.S. and 90% of the U.S. population within 10 miles of a Walmart, the retailer has the opportunity to reach people who otherwise simply may never seek care. “This new testing opportunity takes our commitment to care a step further,” he said, noting that the test will be administered by Walmart pharmacists and is a simple finger prick blood sample, which takes between 20 and 30 minutes to return results.
[Related: Walmart, Elton John AIDS Foundation partner to help end HIV/AIDS epidemic]
While the test is running, pharmacists will discuss other preventative measures like STI tests, contraceptive use, the need for a pregnancy test, medication that can treat or prevent the spread of HIV, vaccines a patient may need and more,
“It's important to note these tests are screenings, not diagnoses. In the event of a positive test, we’ll help patients work with their primary care physician or the Department of Health to order a confirmatory test,” Host said, adding, “The ability of Walmart pharmacists to support HIV/AIDS patients is something we’re particularly proud of. And it hasn’t been without extra work on their part. Since launching our HIV training program with the Elton John AIDS Foundation less than a year ago, every single pharmacist across our 85 HIV SPOC locations has completed it. This training equips pharmacists and clinicians to support patients with or at risk of HIV/AIDS through clinical and culturally relevant education, enabling more compassionate care.”
Emphasizing that one of the underlying principles at its Specialty Pharmacies of the Community is overcoming the stigma, and accompanying social barriers, often associated with HIV/AIDS, Host said, “To do that, we’re expanding our SPOCs to locations with the most need. William ‘Bill’ Presley is the pharmacy manager at Store 2160. His passion for care is personal. Bill shared that HIV affected both his brother and his mom. His leadership and commitment to this work will make a profound impact on the community he serves in the central Virginia area.”
“If you have information, you can protect yourself. I just hope that we will be able to do a well-enough job that people will feel comfortable to come into here to talk to us,” Presley said. “Then we can direct them to the places they need to go.”
[Related: Walmart’s health division makes key leadership appointments]
Lastly, Host said, “We have launched 85 HIV-focused SPOCs across 11 states, with more growth on the horizon. At each location, Walmart pharmacists make connections with their community, learning names, understanding circumstances, remembering medications and turning the patient experience into something far beyond business, but a true journey to better care. Today, we remember and honor those whose lives have been forever changed by HIV and AIDS. While we reflect, we also look toward a brighter future. There’s more progress to make, and our Specialty Pharmacies of the Community represent a step in the right direction.”
To find an HIV-focused SPOC near you, click here.