HIV Testing: Why You Should Be Doing It, More Often, for More Patients

July 13, 2012

Far too many HIV-positive patients get that bad news after their very first HIV test, nationwide data show. Hear a CDC expert tell why primary care doctors are key to improving HIV testing rates and saving lives.

Nearly one in five Americans who are HIV-positive don't know it. The evidence shows that Americans with HIV are being tested too seldom, and diagnosed too late. This is despite recent CDC recommendations for regular HIV testing, as part of routine medical care for adults, adolescents, and pregnant women. 

Among HIV diagnoses made between 2006 and 2009, more than 40% were made at the first test for HIV status, according to a report in the June 22 Morbidity and Mortality Report by Angela Lee Hernandez, MD, and her colleagues. 

Clearly, primary care physicians are on the front line in the important drive for earlier and more effective diagnosis of HIV. Here Dr. Hernandez describes the study and its implications for your practice.

"HIV is too important for people not to know their status," she says in this podcast.

Dr Hernandez is an epidemiologist in the HIV Incidence and Case Surveillance Branch at the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Key points:

•  Many people diagosed with HIV infection have not been tested previoiusly.

•  Nearly 40% of those who received a positive test on their first screening develop AIDS within 6 months of diagnosis, versus 20% of those diagnosed after previously testing negative.

• 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV infection. About one in five are unaware that they are infected.

•  About one-third of Americans with HIV are tested too late for effective treatment of their infection.

•   People most likely to be diagnosed as HIV-positive without having been tested previously include individuals over the age of 50, African-Americans, and people who encountered the virus through heterosexual contact.

HIV Testing: Why You Should Be Doing It, More Often, for More Patients

References:

Previous HIV Testing Among Adults and Adolescents Newly Diagnosed with HIV Infection - National HIV Surveillance System, 18 Jurisdictions, United States, 2006–2009MMWR, June 22, 2012

Revised recommendations for HIV testing of adults, adolescents, and pregnant women in health-care settingsMMWR 2006;55(No. RR-14).