Screening should be part of routine medical care, researchers suggest
TUESDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of HIV testing in the United States have remained constant since 2000, with some one-third of all Americans ever having been screened for the virus that causes AIDS.
But less than 25 percent of those at high risk of infection -- such as people who have unprotected sex or are intravenous drug users -- have been tested within the past year, making it tougher to contain the epidemic, Duke University researchers report.
That gap involving high-risk individuals can be bridged through outreach programs and making HIV testing part of routine health exams, the researchers suggested.
"We found that groups that would be considered at higher risk for HIV expressed the greatest desire to get tested, and yet those groups also had the greatest gap between their desire to get tested and their actual intention to get tested," said lead researcher Brian Wells Pence, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at Duke University's Center for Health Policy.
An estimated 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV, and about 25 percent of them don't know they carry the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Our best estimate is that those 25 percent who don't know that they are infected are responsible for more than half of new infections, because they don't know to take preventative measures," Pence said.
"There are barriers that may affect high-risk groups," he continued, citing such potential obstacles as access to health care, the stigma that still surrounds HIV, and questions about the benefits of treatment.
"Expanding testing to help individuals know their status is a really critical element of addressing the HIV epidemic in this country," Pence said.
The findings were published in the Oct. 22 online edition of Archives of Internal Med
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