The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released a draft recommendation that all individuals aged 15-65 get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It also recommends that people younger and older who are at particular risk of infection get tested.
HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system and causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. There are about 50,000 new cases of HIV every year in the US along with 21,000 AIDS-related deaths. To date, there is no cure for AIDS though there are treatments to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
This announcement follows a previous statement made by the USPSTF, which advised that all adults and teens at increased risk of infection with HIV get tested. If the recommendation is accepted, far more people will be encouraged to get tested by their medical providers.
The Task Force’s recommendation is based on scientific evidence that screening and early treatment are effective tools in managing HIV/AIDS. Douglas K. Owens, M.D., M.S., a member of the Task Force, explained that, “People who…learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives.”
While there are about 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US, one in five do not know they are infected and therefore cannot receive treatment. Treatment can also serve as a way to prevent transmission of the virus. One study found that a person with HIV who takes their medications regularly is 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus than someone who does not.
The USPSTF is an independent organization of private providers who specialize in primary and preventive care. The group examines scientific research to create recommendations based in evidence-based medicine.
The recommendation will be available for comment on the USPSTF’s website until December 17 when it will be revised and finalized.