New guidelines recommend HIV testing for more people

Nov 20, 2012

  Nearly 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, yet 20 to 25 percent of them do not know it.

Getting tested for AIDS may become as commonplace as getting a flu shot:  An independent panel that sets screening guidelines has recommended that ALL Americans between the ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has more.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft recommendation  in strong support of routine HIV testing. Until now, the Task Force recommended testing only for people who are at risk for HIV and pregnant women. Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, says "This marks a monumental shift in how HIV in the United States can be prevented, diagnosed and treated." Schmid points out that the new guidelines by the task force are expected to affect the reimbursement of HIV testing, removing one of the barriers to testing.

The change brings the group more in line with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in 2006 recommended HIV testing for everyone between 13 and 64.

The recommendations, which had been expected, are based on the latest evidence showing the benefits of early HIV testing and treatment. Recent studies have shown that HIV treatment can reduce transmission of the virus to an uninfected partner by as much as 96 percent.

In New York State, outside of New York City, Westchester County is home to the largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS of any New York county... Caren Halbfinger, spokesperson for the Westchester County Department of Health, tells WAMC the county has been leading the effort to make HIV testing a routine part of health care.

The draft recommendations are based on a study of the most recent evidence on the risks and benefits of HIV testing published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  The guidelines will be available for a 30-day public comment period, with final recommendations expected to be released some time next year.