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Task Force recommends widespread screening for HIV

Wednesday November 21, 2012
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a draft recommendation statement on screening for HIV.

In the statement, the Task Force strongly recommends that clinicians screen all people ages 15 to 65 for HIV infection. Younger adolescents and older adults who are at an increased risk for HIV infection also should be screened.

The Task Force also strongly recommends that clinicians screen all pregnant women for HIV, including women in labor whose HIV status is unknown.

Nearly 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, but 20% to 25% of them do not know they are HIV-positive.

"The draft recommendation reflects new evidence that demonstrates the benefits of both screening for and earlier treatment of HIV," Task Force member Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS, said in a news release.

Beginning combined antiretroviral therapy earlier reduces the risk of AIDS-related complications and also has been shown to decrease the chance of HIV transmission.

"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 noted that the best way to reduce HIV-related disease and death is to avoid infection. The recommendation is aimed at helping people who already are infected stay healthy, delay the onset of AIDS and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Comments on the draft recommendation can be posted until Dec. 17 and will be considered as the Task Force develops its final recommendation. To read more about the recommendation and to comment, visit www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/draftrec.htm.


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