Statement from HIVMA Chair Michael Horberg, MD, MAS, FIDSA
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s final recommendation that HIV screening be a routine part of medical care marks a critical step forward in our efforts to identify those who are infected with HIV and link them with lifesaving care and treatment. As HIV clinicians and scientists, we urge providers and health care systems to quickly incorporate HIV testing into patients’ regular medical care. This recommendation means that HIV screening will be covered—offered free of charge to patients—under private health insurance plans as a covered preventive service as provided in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The task force’s finalized recommendation calls for clinicians to test everyone between the ages of 15 and 65, all pregnant women, and younger adolescents and older adults who are at higher risk for HIV—a strategy strongly supported by the scientific evidence and in line with recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006. Almost 20 percent—or one in five—of those who are infected with HIV in this country do not know they are infected. As many as one-third of those are HIV-infected are diagnosed too late to fully benefit from treatment. Less than 40 percent of people with HIV are in regular care.
The statistics are heartbreaking given what we know today: People with HIV who have early and reliable access to HIV care and treatment live near normal lifespans and also are significantly less likely to transmit the virus to others.
While early diagnosis through routine HIV screening is an essential first step, the goal of HIV screening is to successfully connect individuals with HIV to care and treatment, or to keep those not exposed uninfected through effective prevention efforts. Our ability to do so effectively depends on full implementation of the health care reform law – including expanded access to the Medicaid program in every state – and continued strong support for the highly successful Ryan White Program. Collectively, these opportunities offer us the vehicles to strive toward an AIDS-free generation.
The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is the professional home for more than 5,000 physicians, scientists, and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS. Nested within the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), HIVMA promotes quality in HIV care and advocates policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. For more information, visit www.hivma.org.
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