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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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Doctors: Test All Patients Over 13 for HIV

Routine HIV Testing Urged for All Patients Aged 13 to 64, Regardless of Risk Factors


The new suggestion, "Screening for HIV in Health Care Settings: A Guidance Statement from the American College of Physicians and HIV Medicine Association," says HIV is major public health problem worldwide and that at least 1 million people in the United States are infected.

However, up to 27% of them haven't been diagnosed, the ACP says. And it says at least 20,000 new infections a year in the U.S. are because of transmission of the virus from people who don't know they are infected.

In 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, at least 17,011 Americans with AIDS died, raising the total number of deaths from the virus to 550,394, the ACP says, quoting statistics from the CDC.

The ACP indicates it didn't decide to issue the new guideline lightly, but only after study of other guidance statements from the CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Its new guideline also has been endorsed by HIV Medicine Association.

Early detection of the virus is critical so that patients can get the maximum benefits from existing therapies, the ACP says.

"The evidence also showed that most adults discuss and disclose high-risk behaviors when the issue is brought up by their physician," the ACP says. But 10% to 25% of people who test positive for HIV report no risky behaviors.

The ACP's guideline notes that the CDC in 2006 said screening for HIV should be performed routinely for all patients 13 to 64. It also says all pregnant women in the U.S. should be tested for HIV infection.

Early detection is important, the ACP says, because it can increase life span. Also, there's evidence that people with HIV likely change risky behaviors that could spread the virus. It says doctors should talk to patients to get them to reduce risky behaviors.

The guideline notes that according to the CDC, 20% of people with HIV are older than 50.

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