The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released its updated recommendation for HIV screening to include all patients ages 15 to 65, in addition to those outside that age range who are at a high risk for the disease. They also recommended that all pregnant women be screened to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
"[We] found convincing evidence that identification and treatment of HIV infection is associated with a markedly reduced risk for progression to AIDS, AIDS-related events and death in individuals with immunologically advanced disease," reported the panel of experts who make up the task force.
They went on to underscore the importance of early treatment to successfully control the disease, especially in pregnant women. Detecting HIV early in expecting mothers can help to maintain low viral loads and reduce the risk of transmitting it to the child.
There is not enough information to calculate an ideal time interval for HIV screening, according to the USPSTF, but the health experts suggest conducting at least one screening with all patients within the age range to detect those who are HIV positive, and regularly screening people who are at a high risk for the disease.
Who's at risk
Men who have sex with men are particularly at risk for HIV, according to the source, as they make up approximately 60 percent of the U.S. population living with the disease. Risky behaviors include having unprotected sex, having sex with an HIV-positive partner or using injection drugs.
The task force notes that patients who have already been tested or have sought testing for other STDs are also at risk for HIV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47,500 were infected with HIV in 2010, and of that number, 28,500 were men who had sex with men.
The USPSTF's guidelines include recommendations regarding other forms of prevention and cite prevention as the best way to reduce the mortality rateof HIV. They note the importance of safe sex - namely condom use - to reduce the risk of spreading HIV and other STDs, in addition to behavioral counseling for anyone at risk for infection.
Online STD testing is another way to detect communicable diseases early on and increase the likelihood of successful treatment.
The task force also states that further behavioral interventions, primarily those centered around informing the at-risk public to change habits, attitudes and beliefs, can be helpful in preventing HIV.