Sexual Health news - Sexual Health and Behavior

Research supports more frequent HIV testing

A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University suggests changes in the guidelines on how often individuals should undergo HIV tests.

The scientists performed a mathematical modeling study in order to assess "optimal testing frequencies" for HIV screening in both high- and low-risk groups. The study, which is published in the March 2013 issue of AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society, concluded that more frequent testing could be beneficial to everyone. 

Researchers state that frequent testing may help identify infected individuals earlier as well as reduce their risk of unknowingly transmitting the sexually transmitted disease to others. Additionally, they suggested that testing often is cost-effective, as people who are diagnosed early can begin antiretroviral treatments sooner and improve their long-term prognosis.

"Our results should encourage policymakers and medical professionals to reconsider how often adolescents and adults should be tested for HIV," said researcher Benjamin Armbruster.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that high-risk individuals, such as people with HIV-positive sexual partners, those with multiple sexual partners and injection drug users, undergo an HIV test each year. Low-risk individuals are encouraged to be tested at least once in their lifetime.

The results of the study suggest people considered high-risk should be tested as often as every three months, and people in low-risk groups should be tested every three years.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. However, one in five of those infected individuals do not know they have the virus.

Recent studies have shown that treating infected individuals as early as possible can significantly improve their health and reduce symptoms. In fact, a recent French study suggests that many HIV-infected individuals could control the virus without daily treatment if they start taking antiretroviral medications as soon as possible after being infected.