U.S. Panel Changes Stance, Says All Adults Should Get Tested for HIV

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a new recommendation statement on Monday regarding adults and HIV testing. The statement, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, asserted that all adults between the ages of 15 and 65 should be tested for HIV, regardless of whether or not they are considered high risk.

Previously, the USPSTF had only recommended that pregnant women and people who are considered high-risk get tested. The USPSTF updated its recommendations based on recent data that estimates that up to 25 percent of adults who are HIV-positive do not know that they are infected.

Here is some of the key information that emerged from the USPSTF's new recommendations.

* As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the USPSTF's new recommendations align it with other health agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Infectious Disease Society of America, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

* The last set of recommendations issued by the USPSTF regarding HIV testing in adults was published in 2005.

* In its 2005 recommendations, the USPSTF recommended HIV testing only for groups that were considered high-risk, including men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, those who have unprotected vaginal or anal sex, and those who have a partner that meets the criteria for belonging to a high-risk group. Separately, pregnant women were also advised to get tested.

* Even though the recommendations specifically apply to adults between the ages of 15 and 65, the USPSTF noted in its statement that "younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk should also be screened."

* Additionally, the USPSTF now recommends that not only should pregnant women be screened, but women who come to the hospital already in labor should be screened at the time if their HIV status is not known.

* The panel stated that there is not yet sufficient data to determine just how frequently adults should be tested for HIV, although those considered high-risk should make sure to be tested regularly nonetheless.

* Dr. Douglas Owens, who is a member of the USPSTF and works at Stanford University, told Reuters on Monday that "testing all adults within a certain age range may reduce any stigma associated with testing," and that he hoped that "the fact that the guidelines are all very similar will provide an impetus for people to offer screening because it is a very critical public-health problem."

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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