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Taskforce calls for everyone to be tested for HIV

The US Preventative Services Task Force has recommended that all Americans between the ages of 15 and 65 should be screened for HIV. In the draft recommendation, the Task Force added that younger and older individuals should be screened if they are at increased risk for infection.

In addition the report said that all pregnant women should be screened, including those in labor whose HIV status is unknown.

The Task Force indicated that HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), goals of the recommendation are to help people already infected with HIV stay healthy, delay the onset of AIDS and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

The recommendation is currently posted for public comment on the Task Force's website, comments will be taken until Dec. 17. The Task Force is an independent group of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, will then develop a final recommendation.

HIV is a critical public health problem. Nearly 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, yet 20 to 25 percent of them do not know that they are HIV-positive.

According to Task Force member, Dr. Douglas K. Owens, M.D., "The draft recommendation reflects new evidence that demonstrates the benefits of both screening for and earlier treatment of HIV.”

Beginning combined antiretroviral therapy (ART) earlier reduces the risk of developing AIDS-related complications. Treatment also has been shown to decrease the chance of transmission of HIV. “Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected,” Dr. Owens said. “People who are feeling well and learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives.” The best way to reduce HIV-related disease and death is to avoid getting infected. This recommendation is aimed at helping people who are already infected stay healthy, delay the onset of AIDS, and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

There is evidence that antiretroviral therapy can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to others, and also that initiating combined antiretroviral therapy at an earlier stage of infection may reduce a patient's risk of developing AIDS-related complications.

"Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected," Owens said. "People who are feeling well and learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives."

The Task Force’s draft recommendation has been posted for public comment on the Task Force Web site at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Comments can be submitted from November 20 to December 17 at the comment page for the Task Force. Do you believe that everyone should be screened for HIV?

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