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HIV Tests Cost-Effective for Some Seniors
Date:6/18/2008

$30,000 in tests to lengthen a sexually active 65-year-old person's life by something known as a "quality-adjusted life year," a complicated measurement that takes into account the difficulty of life during illness. On average, diagnosing a 65-year-old with HIV instead of allowing him to remain untreated could lengthen his life by six to nine months, Owens said.

"That's actually a lot. That's a pretty big change," he said. "Many of the interventions we do change life expectancy by a week, a few weeks, maybe a month."

AIDS tests typically cost from $10 to $70, Owens said.

Johnston said doctors with older patients "should to be aware they may be carrying their own biases. It's worth taking into account the person's sexual history and whether they have risk factors."

Still, some observers may question the study's assumption that more than one in 1,000 older adults have HIV and are undiagnosed, said Frank Myers, director of clinical epidemiology and safety systems at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego.

"This study, with its assumptions of HIV prevalence, will not be enough to change HIV screening recommendations by itself," Myers said. But, he added, he hopes the research will motivate health-care providers to ask patients about HIV risk factors and target them with messages about prevention.

More information

For more about older adults and AIDS, visit the Foundation for AIDS Research.



SOURCES: Douglas K. Owens, M.D., senior investigator, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and professor of medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., vice president of research, Foundation for AIDS Research, New York City; Frank Myers, M.A., CIC, CPHQ, director of clinical epidemiology and safety systems, Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego; June 17, 2008, '/>"/>

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