HIV testing recommended for everyone ages 13 to 64

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HIV testing recommended for everyone ages 13 to 64

More aggressive HIV testing may increase early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection.

What happened? Testing for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, may soon be as common as a blood pressure reading or a cholesterol test.

New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage voluntary HIV testing as a routine part of medical care for all adolescents and adults ages 13 to 64. The new recommendations — which aren't legally binding — are designed to increase early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection. Earlier recommendations suggested routine HIV testing only for people at high risk of infection, pregnant women and people in settings where HIV is common.

An estimated 250,000 Americans are HIV-positive but don't know it, according to the CDC. In fact, the CDC says that nearly 40 percent of people diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed within one year of the infection progressing to AIDS — when it may be too late for early treatment to be the most effective.

Early detection may help prevent the spread of HIV as well. The CDC estimates that between 50 percent and 70 percent of new sexually transmitted HIV infections are caused by people who don't know they're infected with HIV.

The new recommendations also include guidelines to improve HIV diagnosis among pregnant women and reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

What does this mean to you? HIV testing will remain voluntary and will only be done with your consent. Although the CDC says that everyone ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once, yearly HIV testing is recommended only for people at high risk of infection.

If you learn that you're HIV-positive, you'll have the opportunity to be treated early with the most effective medications available. You'll also be able to take steps to protect your partner from infection. Share any questions or concerns about HIV testing with your doctor.

Last Updated: 09/25/2006
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