Testing earlier when symptoms aren't present may allow people to begin treatment earlier.
Did you know that there are nearly 250,000 Americans who are HIV positive and don’t know? Did you also know that African-Americans are more likely to test late for HIV, which means by the time we are diagnosed with HIV, we also have AIDS?
It’s clear that everyone, especially us, need better access to testing.
One way to ensure more people are routinely tested for HIV is to make HIV testing as routine as diabetes and cholesterol screenings, which is what the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are now recommending in a draft of proposed guidelines.
That way, instead of relying for the doctor or patient to bring it up, it will automatically be offered free (thanks to Obamacare) and without stigma and you won’t miss an opportunity of knowing your status.
"Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected," said task force member Dr. Douglas K. Owens. "People who are feeling well and learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives."
The task force’s recommendations apply to all people aged 15 to 65 and all pregnant women. It recommends that:
— Clinicians screen all people aged 15 to 65 for HIV infection
— Younger adolescents and older adults who are at an increased risk for HIV infection should also be screened
— Clinicians screen all pregnant women for HIV, including women in labor whose HIV status is unknown.
Stigma and not wanting to offend patients is a huge reason why doctors don’t always offer HIV tests to their patients. But Dr. Owens told the Associated Press that these proposed recommendations may alleviate some of that by lumping HIV testing in with other tests that require blood to be drawn such as cholesterol.
"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.'"
The task force’s draft recommendation has been posted for public comment on its website. Comments can be submitted from Nov. 20 to Dec. 17.
Not knowing your status is the difference between life and death. Speak up at the doctor’s office and let him or her know that you want to be tested and submit your comments to the task force. Be heard!
The doctor’s office isn’t the only place to get tested for HIV. Learn where you can get tested in your community here.
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(Photo: AIDS-USA/ REUTERS/Mike Segar)