When it comes to routine screening for HIV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommend that all patients under 64 be routinely tested for HIV, except in rare cases where the patient’s population carries the virus at rates less than 0.1 percent. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends routine HIV testing for any patient who engages in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting the virus.
Taking a slightly more comprehensive approach to prevention, the American College of Physicians is now urging doctors to routinely screen all of their patients age 13 and up for HIV, whether or not their population is at risk, and whether or not they admit to engaging in risky behavior.
[M]ost patients don’t tell their doctors about their risky behaviors, said Dr. Amir Qaseem, senior medical associate with the American College of Physicians, a professional group that represents internists. Moreover, it is almost impossible for a physician to know what the H.I.V. prevalence rate is among certain patients, Dr. Qaseem added.
“Right now it’s estimated 1 million to 1.2 million Americans have H.I.V., but 24 to 27 percent are undiagnosed or unaware of their infection,” Dr. Qaseem said. “We’re recommending clinicians just adopt routine screening in their patients.”
The college set no upper age limit on testing because 20 percent of people with H.I.V. are over 50 years of age, Dr. Qaseem said. He said clinicians should decide whether repeat screening is required on a case-by-case basis. –Roni Caryn Rabin, NY Times
Though the CDC implemented its recommendations two years ago, today still only 1 to 2 percent of US emergency rooms routinely test for HIV, partly due to a lack of funding, since many states have no system for reimbursement.
Here’s hoping that doctors all over the country will take the new recommendations from the American College of Physicians to heart, and test more patients for HIV. Out of an estimated 1 to 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, roughly 25% are unaware that they are infected. Early detection not only increases a patient’s survival rate by allowing effective treatments to be promptly administered, but sharply decreases the inadvertent spread of the HIV virus.