New HIV Screening Guidelines Recommended

The USPSTF calls for routine HIV screening for all ages.

Posted: 08/27/2013 11:06 AM EDT

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently released new recommended screening guidelines for HIV. It gave a grade A recommendation for routine HIV screening for everybody aged 15 to 65, and younger adolescents and older adults at an increased risk for HIV infection. It also gave a grade A recommendation for HIV screening for all pregnant women, including those in labor whose HIV status is not known.

What Is Grade A?

Many health organizations, professional societies and medical quality review groups use USPSTF’s recommendations to make decisions about their clinical standards. And under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private health insurance policies created after March 23, 2010, are required to offer all preventive services that have been given an A or B recommendation by USPSTF, at no out-of-pocket cost to the consumer. ACA also gives state Medicaid programs financial incentives to cover USPSTF-recommended preventive services for adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says roughly 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV. Because HIV infection does not usually cause symptoms in its early stage, many people (about one in five) who are HIV positive are unaware they are infected, making them more likely to transmit the virus their sexual partners. According to the CDC, nearly 50 percent of all new HIV infections are transmitted by people unaware they are infected. This is especially critical in the black community, where nearly 100,000 were unaware of their HIV status in 2009.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Status

Once identified by screening, the hope is that HIV-infected folks can begin antiretroviral therapy, adhere to treatment and achieve full viral load suppression (no detectable virus in the blood). A suppressed viral load means better health outcomes for infected people, as well as less chance of infecting partners.

Read more about the new HIV testing guidelines at BlackHealthMatters.com.

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(Photo:John Ricard / BET)

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