Guidelines ‘normalize’ HIV testing

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released in April a new recommendation statement, giving HIV screening an “A” grade. This new grade indicates that the USPSTF estimates with a high level of certainty that the net benefit of offering or providing routine HIV testing for all individuals ages 15 to 65 might be substantial.

In addition, the USPSTF recommends continuing riskbased testing for individuals younger than 15 and older than 65.

The new testing recommendations fit well into the national HIV/AIDS strategy, which calls for increased efforts to identify HIV-positive individuals who never have been tested. By identifying, engaging and retaining HIV-positive individuals in treatment, we might be able to reduce the incidence of new infections in our country — an estimated figure that has remained unchanged for decades in the 50,000-plus range, despite an array of previous campaign strategies to improve screening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the USPSTF’s recommendations could impact positively two chronic concerns:

◆ Almost 50 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by individuals who do not know they are HIV-positive.

◆ About one of every three patients newly diagnosed with HIV is diagnosed late in the disease process and progresses to a diagnosis of AIDS within one year of initial diagnosis.

If we can increase the number of people who undergo routine HIV testing in our community, and increase people’s awareness of their HIVpositive status, we might be able to reduce the annual incidence and overall prevalence of HIV disease. Additionally, by engaging patients in routine HIV testing, we might be able to identify HIV-positive individuals early in the disease process and reduce the number of patients who receive initial dual diagnoses of HIV and AIDS.