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Spring 2007

Routine HIV Testing Recommended for Teens and Older

One-fourth of the approximately 1 million U.S. residents living with Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV) are unaware that they are infected. This prevents these 250,000 individuals from receiving treatment that can improve their health and extend their lives—treatment that is more effective when begun earlier in the course of the disease. Approximately 40 percent of people with HIV are diagnosed at an advanced stage. “This is a major public health problem,” says Emery Chang, M.D., a physician at the UCLA Center for Clinical AIDS Research and Education (UCLA CARE Center). “We have been missing people who should be diagnosed earlier, both for their own health and because knowing their HIV-positive status would make them more likely to reduce risky behaviors.” Estimates suggest that half of new HIV infections in the U.S. are transmitted by people who have not been diagnosed. In response to these concerns, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued revised recommendations for HIV testing last September. The agency recommends testing for all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 years when they undergo routine tests to measure blood sugar, kidney function and other health indicators. The new guidelines recommend elimination of rules requiring separate signed consent for HIV testing; rather, patients should be notified that testing will be performed unless they decline. The CDC recommends that people at high risk for HIV infection be tested at least once a year. The new guidelines, while continuing to emphasize the importance of voluntary testing, aim to remove barriers to HIV screening that hinder both patients and their health-care providers from seeking tests. The UCLA CARE Center, which recently moved to a new location in Century City, provides care for HIV patients and conducts clinical research.
To hear first hand from doctors and patients, go to www.streaming.uclahealth.org/CARE

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