In 2006, the CDC recommended HIV screening for all patients between the ages of 13 to 64 years. The implementation of these guidelines has fallen short. Several studies have demonstrated that the majority of community health practices, emergency rooms, and urgent care settings have failed to implement or even offer HIV screening to eligible individuals.
In spite of all we have learned about HIV since it was first discovered over 30 years ago, many people still fear that others will think less of them if they are diagnosed with HIV. They are also worried that they could be discriminated against if others learned of their HIV-positive status. However, in the United States, those who are HIV-positive are protected from being discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Some people won’t get tested for HIV because they are scared of what the results will be. In the early days of the HIV epidemic, being diagnosed with HIV was like receiving a death sentence. However, there have been tremendous advances in treatment for HIV-positive individuals. While there is still no cure, early detection drastically improves outcomes. Starting treatment earlier greatly reduces AIDS-related symptoms and decreases rates of transmission. The benefits of treatment are reduced the longer you wait, so its in your best interest to get tested sooner rather than later.
Many people don’t get tested because they think they don’t have any of the risk factors for HIV infection. However, a 2011 study showed that 69% of HIV-infected patients said they weren’t tested earlier because they didn’t think they were at risk. Make sure you know what the risk factors are, and, if you have any of them, make sure to get tested! If you don’t know what the risk factors are, you can find them here.
Physicians, other health care professionals & health systems
It might not just be you who needs to learn about HIV, it could be your doctor as well. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention changed their recommendations. They now recommend routine screening for all adults. They previously recommended routine HIV screening only in high-risk populations. However, many physicians are not aware of this updated recommendation. Emergency room doctors in particular are often too concerned about the immediate illness or injury to think about offering an HIV test. But remember, you can always ask. If you think you might feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, you can always check out HATS and let us tell the doctor for you!