Health providers play key role in encouraging routine HIV screening
HIV testing is fast, private and increasingly affordable yet one in five Americans with HIV does not know they are infected. This HIV Testing Day, June 27, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is encouraging all to get tested for the disease because individuals who are diagnosed and treated early have better long-term health outcomes and are less likely to spread the disease to others.
HIV Testing Day serves as an annual reminder for individuals to get tested and for health care providers to encourage their patients to do the same. In April, the United States Preventive Services Task Force issued a final recommendation that everyone between the ages of 15 and 65 be tested for HIV as a routine part of medical care.
The task force’s recommendation means that HIV screening will be covered—offered free of charge to patients—under private health insurance plans as a covered preventive service through the federal health reform law. This was a critical step forward in identifying those infected with HIV, and HIVMA urges providers and health systems to quickly incorporate HIV testing into patients’ regular medical care.
“HIV treatment is much more effective when patients are diagnosed early,” said Michael Horberg, MD, FIDSA, chair of HIVMA and director of HIV/AIDS at Kaiser Permanente. “Our most effective strategy against the spread of HIV is to connect people to appropriate care early so they can benefit from treatment and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. By not knowing your status, you could be missing out on an opportunity to protect yourself and others.”
Despite advances in HIV medicine, one-third of HIV-infected individuals are diagnosed too late to fully benefit from treatment and more than 60 percent of infected individuals are not receiving reliable, regular care.
“We are truly starting to turn the tide against HIV, yet a staggering amount of people remain improperly cared for or simply do not know they should be seeking care,” Dr. Horberg said. “This HIV Testing Day—and every day—health providers can play a crucial role as we strive towards an AIDS-free generation by encouraging their patients to get tested.”
For more information about HIV Testing Day, including a searchable list of testing sites across the country, visit www.hivtest.org. To find an HIV medical provider, visit HIVMA’s website or the website of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s HIV/AIDS Bureau to search listings of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program providers.
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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