Patient advocates and health organizations from across the country are convening in Atlanta this week for the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  With a strong focus on building momentum around the National HIV/AIDS Strategy that was released by the White House last year, the conference, “The Urgency of Now: Reduce incidence. Improve access. Promote equity,” is designed to discuss innovative approaches to prevent HIV in high-risk populations.

On Tuesday, researchers from CDC and several local public health departments released a series of new studies that examined the goals and main components of the strategy and briefed reporters on the findings on a conference call.

Among those in high-risk populations — men who have sex with men, injection drug users and heterosexuals with low socioeconomic status — nearly half were unaware of their infection. High levels of risk behavior, combined with low testing rates and low participation in behavior-change programs, keep these three groups at high risk for infection.

Results of a system-wide change at a large hospital designed to integrate HIV testing into routine care discovered that only 4 percent of patients at MetroHealth aged 13 to 64 were screened for HIV from 2008 to 2009. In July 2010, they added a “testing” prompt to the electronic medical records system MetroHealth uses. Within six months, HIV testing increased by nearly two-thirds in the hospital system’s outpatient clinics — from 3,851 tested in the first half of 2010 to 6,313 tested from July to December 2010, after the prompt was initiated.

Researchers examining retention in care of HIV-infected individuals found that 41 percent of adults and adolescents living with HIV in 2009 had not received either of two recommended tests necessary for effective HIV care.

In a study using mapping technologies to target prevention services, geographic variations in treatments that varied based on resident ZIP codes. The authors note that linking care and treatment is just the beginning to help patients adhere to prescribed treatment programs.

The full list of abstracts can be found here. Read more in a related CQ story.  The conference continues through today.