HIV Screening For Anyone Between 15 to 65: Why Doctors Want It

By Nina Sen , Apr 30, 2013 11:48 AM EDT

A medical group of doctors and scientists wants people aged 15 to 65 to get HIV screening.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has called for normal-risk adolescents and adults to be tested for HIV infection. The screening would be voluntary. The move supports guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control that currently state that HIV screening should begin at age 13.

The previous recommendation by the panel was for high-risk patients to get screening. The new recommendation could help provide coverage for HIV/AIDS screening and testing among a wider group, including those with limited access to healthcare. It could also place HIV testing as a preventive measure under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. This means insurers and employers would have to provide coverage for HIV screening.

"A key role for family physicians in our efforts to reduce the impact of this important health problem is to make sure everyone is offered the opportunity to be screened and to get people (found to be infected) into the appropriate care very early in the course of their infection," USPSTF's Co-Vice Chair Michael LeFevre, M.D., M.S.P.H., of Columbia, Mo. said in an report published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Those at low-risk for contracting HIV may not need to get repeated tests, the panel said.

"While the science isn't clear on the best frequency for testing, the task force felt that one-time screening may suffice for low-risk individuals, with those at increased risk getting repeated screenings," LeFevre added in the report.

The group also noted that all pregnant women should be tested for the infection.

A task force associated with USPSTF found very little risk associated with routine screenings for HIV. They also found infected individuals who are informed of their positive status early can better manage the disease.

According to the CDC, about 20 to 25 per cent of those living with HIV infection in the U.S. are unaware of their positive status. As many as 50,000 Americans become infected with the virus each year.

While there is no cure for the disease, many can drastically reduce their chances of infecting others and manage their illness through anti-retroviral drugs.

"The CDC believes HIV testing should be as routine as a cholesterol test or a blood pressure check but so far fewer than half of Americans have ever been tested," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement.

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