November 20, 2012

Federal panel urges HIV testing for 'everybody'

Today's rapid tests can cost less than $20 and require just rubbing a swab over the gums, with results ready in as little as 20 minutes.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — There's a new push to make testing for the AIDS virus as common as cholesterol checks.

click image to enlarge

A patient uses an oral test for HIV in this undated photo. All Americans ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once – not just people considered at high risk for the virus, a panel of government advisers proposes.

AP

Americans ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once -- not just people considered at high risk for the virus, an independent panel for screening guidelines proposed Monday.

The draft guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are the latest recommendations that aim to make HIV screening simply a routine part of a check-up, something a doctor can order with as little fuss as a cholesterol test or a mammogram. Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has pushed for widespread, routine HIV screening.

Yet not nearly enough people have heeded that call: Of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, nearly 1 in 5 -- almost 240,000 people -- don't know it. Not only is their own health at risk without treatment, they could unwittingly be spreading the virus to others.

"It allows you to say, 'This is a recommended test that we believe everybody should have. We're not singling you out in any way,' " said task force member Dr. Douglas Owens of Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

And if finalized, the task force guidelines could extend the number of people eligible for an HIV screening without a copay in their doctor's office.

Today's rapid tests can cost less than $20 and require just rubbing a swab over the gums, with results ready in as little as 20 minutes.

 

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