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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Getting With The Program

By November 28, 2012

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Years after the CDC first recommended universal HIV testing, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) is finally getting with the program. They've recently released a draft recommendation suggesting that all American adolescents and adults between the ages of 15 and 65 should get tested for HIV, as should all pregnant women, and younger and older people if they are at high risk. As currently formulated, it is a Grade A recommendation, which means that there is good evidence that the recommendation is effective... and that medical providers should routinely do as it says.

I say, "Hallelujah! It's about time." There is, as the recommendation suggests, excellent evidence for the utility of widespread HIV testing. Although it is not possible to cure the virus, early, effective treatment can largely prevent many of the negative outcomes of HIV infection. In addition, combination antiretroviral treatment can also reduce the likelihood that an infected person will transmit their virus to their sexual partners. That means that testing doesn't only help the infected stay healthier for longer, it helps the uninfected stay that way.

From both an individual and a public health standpoint, HIV testing is most effective when it is done in a way that allows doctors to catch and treat new infections as early as possible, while they are still asymptomatic. The only way to accomplish that on a widespread basis is to make HIV testing a routine procedure for all adults. A USPSTF recommendation is an important step in making that happen.

Note: The comment period on the recommendation is open until December 17. You can read the full draft of the recommendation, or comment, at the USPSTF website.

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