An independent panel that sets screening guidelines has proposed to make HIV testing as regular as cholesterol checks. The panel states that Americans between 15 and 64 years old should get an HIV test at least once instead of just people that are considered at high risk for the virus.
The draft guidelines come from the US Preventative Services Task Force and are the latest recommendations aiming to make HIV testing a routine part of a check-up, reports CBS News.
Their aim is to make the HIV test something a doctor can order as easily as a cholesterol test or mammogram. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been pushing for more widespread screening of the virus that causes AIDS since 2006.
Despite the calls for more testing, nearly one in five Americans with HIV don’t even know they have it. Not only is their health at risk without treatment, but these 240,000 people risk spreading the virus to others without even knowing it.
NBC News notes that task force member Dr. Douglas Owens, a medical professor at Stanford University, stated:
“The prior recommendations were for screening high-risk adults and adolescents. The current recommendation is for screening everyone, regardless of their risk.”
The new guidelines by the US Preventative Services Task Force are expected to affect the reimbursement of HIV testing, which is a barrier to the tests.
Insurers are required to cover preventative services under the Affordable Care Act that are recommended by the task force. The recommendations have been expected and are based on the latest evidence that shows the benefits of early HIV testing and treatment.
Dr. Jeffrey Lennox, a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and chief of infectious disease at Grady Memorial Hospital, believes that the recommendations will help many patients who are living with HIV without knowing it. Lennox stated:
“In our practice, we see patients every week who are newly diagnosed with HIV — people who have seen many physicians in the past 10 years and none of them had ever offered testing.”
With the current guidelines, many physicians simply do not offer the tests. With the new recommendations, however, Owens hopes doctors will have an easier time offering the HIV testing.