Everyone in the U.S. ages 15 to 65 should be screened at least once for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a U.S. medical advisory group recommended.
Early identification and treatment are crucial for preventing the virus’s spread and lengthening the lives of those who are infected, according to the draft guidelines released today by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Previously, screening focused on people in high-risk groups and pregnant women. That recommendation was made in 2005.
By increasing the number of people to be tested, the group hopes to cut new cases. About 1.2 million people in the U.S. are currently infected, and a fifth to a quarter of these don’t know they’re HIV-positive, according to the task force. By getting those people diagnosed, they could be treated more quickly, as well as lowering the risk they’d infect anyone else.
“Not everyone who gets infected has engaged in risky behavior, but none of us ever knows for certain what our partners are doing,” said Virginia Moyer, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and the current task force chairwoman, in an interview. “So it’s valuable to get tested even if you haven’t engaged in any risky behavior.”
Those with the highest risk, which includes gay men and those who use injection drugs, should be tested every year.
The draft guidelines have been posted for public comment on the task force’s website. Comments may be submitted from Nov. 20 to Dec. 17.
The task force, based in Rockville, Maryland, is a panel of medical professionals, composed mostly of primary care providers.
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