WASHINGTON – Theres a new push to make testing for the AIDS virus as common as cholesterol checks.
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 that sets screening guidelines proposed this week.
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 – dont know it. Not only is their own health at risk without treatment, they could unwittingly be spreading the virus to others.
And if finalized, the task force guidelines could extend the number of people eligible for an HIV screening without a copay in their doctors office, as part of free preventive care under the Obama administrations health care law. Under the task forces previous guidelines, only people at increased risk for HIV – which includes gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users – were eligible for that no-co-pay screening.
There are a number of ways to get tested. If youre having blood drawn for other exams, the doctor can merely add HIV to the list. Todays rapid tests can cost less than $20 and require just rubbing a swab over the gums.