Expanded HIV screening advised

Edition: September 2013 - Vol 21 Number 09
Article#: 4324
Author: Repertoire

All people aged 15 to 65, as well as younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk for HIV infection, should be screened for HIV, according to a recommendation earlier this year from the United States Preventive Services Task Force. The group also recommends that all pregnant women, including those in labor whose HIV status is unknown, be screened for HIV.

The USPSTF is an independent panel of non-federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, and is composed of primary care providers (such as internists, pediatricians, family physicians, gynecologists/obstetricians, nurses, and health behavior specialists).

The panel assigned its highest grade – an “A” – to its recommendation regarding HIV screening, which in Task Force parlance means that “there is a high certainty that the net benefit is substantial.” All copays and deductibles for such screenings will be waived under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Task Force found that although there is no cure for HIV infection, treating people with HIV earlier reduces their risk of developing AIDS and delays its onset, and also decreases the chance that they will pass on the infection to someone else. Treating pregnant women also reduces the chances that the virus will be transmitted to their babies.

“HIV is a critical public health problem and, despite recent medical advances, still a devastating diagnosis for the 50,000 people in the United States who contract HIV each year,” said Task Force chair Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH.

“Nearly a quarter of people with HIV don’t know that they have it, and they’re missing out on a chance to take control of their disease,” said Task Force member Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS, in a statement. “Universal screening will help identify more people with HIV, allowing them to start combined antiretroviral therapy earlier and live healthier and longer lives.”

Other groups, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have similar recommendations for HIV screening.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendations can be found at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Fact sheets are designed to explain the recommendations in plain language.