HIV testing in the USA

HIV screening was first implemented in the United States in 1985, primarily for the purpose of screening blood donations for HIV infection. In an effort to prevent individuals from using blood donation centers for the purpose of HIV testing, alternative testing sites were established. These alternative testing sites provided both HIV testing and counseling programs. Since 1985, when HIV screening was primarily utilized for blood donations, there has been an increase in the accessibility and acceptability of HIV screening as part of an individual’s routine medical examination.

HIV testing statistics

There exists an assortment of national surveys of varying sample populations and methodologies that aim to estimate the percentage of adults in the United States who have, in their lifetime, received an HIV test. Despite differences in sample size and methodologies, most national surveys that have been conducted remain relatively consistent in their findings. In the late 1980s, it was estimated that 1 out of 6 adults had received a test for HIV. However, with time, and with increased access to HIV testing, it was estimated that 31-40 percent of adults in the United States had been tested for HIV. Today, approximately 45% of adults in the United States have been tested for HIV. Despite an increase in the number of adults in the United States who have been tested for HIV, approximately 55% of adults in the United States have never been tested.

Females more likely to be tested for HIV/AIDS than males

Despite most HIV positive cases being attributed to males, reports indicate that a higher percentage of women are being tested for HIV. In the 1980s, HIV testing was higher in men than in women. However, due to the increasingly more widespread infection rates among heterosexuals in the United States, women are inherently becoming more at risk, and it is a good thing they are more women being tested for HIV. There are a number of reasons that have been attributed to this increase in female testing. These reasons include women seeking access to health care more habitually than men,  clinicians feeling more at ease when offering an HIV to women, and the CDC’s persistence in recommending pregnant women to be screened for HIV. In 2002, the National Survey of Family Growth reported that a higher percentage of women underwent HIV testing when compared to men (57% of women compared to 47% of males). In 2008, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that the number of women and men who underwent HIV testing decreased to 48% of women and 41% of men.

HIV testing varies by ethnicity and race

HIV testing in the United States has varied over time by ethnicity and race. In the 1980s, a higher percentage of white adults were tested for HIV (17%) when compared with Hispanic (14%) and black (14%) adults. However, in 1999, HIV testing was higher in the Hispanic (41%) and black (46%) adult populations compared to white adults (29%). This trend remains consistent to this day.

CDC’s impact on increasing testing

The CDC, and its recommendations for HIV testing, have made a significant difference in influencing the populations of people who have tested for the virus. In its infancy, HIV testing was primarily directed towards individuals who were considered at risk for HIV infection and individuals who considered themselves at risk. This sentiment has changed. In the late 1980s, 1 out of 3 adults who believed they were at risk for HIV received an HIV test. While many surveys conducted by numerous organizations report an increase in HIV testing across the board, there also continues to be an increase in transmission of HIV. Rates of HIV transmission are concordant with HIV risk populations. Due to the gradual increase in the number of HIV transmissions per year in the United States, it is recommended to test regularly (more than once per year) for high risk populations.