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Too Few Americans Get HIV Test Early Enough
Date:6/25/2009

Late diagnosis costs lives that could be saved with powerful treatments, CDC says

THURSDAY, June 25 (HealthDay News) -- Too many Americans with HIV are diagnosed late in the course of their disease and miss out on the optimal benefit of effective treatments, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

As many as 1 million Americans are infected with HIV, but up to a third don't know they have the disease because they haven't been tested for it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why the agency recommends that HIV testing be a routine part of any medical examination.

"People are learning about their HIV infection several years after being infected," explained lead researcher Dr. R. Luke Shouse, from the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

"This means that they may have unknowingly transmitted HIV," Shouse said. "It also means that there is a time when they had HIV when they were not under appropriate medical care, so there are missed opportunities for prevention and care."

The new report on HIV testing appears in the June 26 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, to coincide with National HIV Testing Day on June 27. The day promotes testing as an important strategy to prevent and control transmission of HIV in the United States, according to the CDC.

According to the report, which collected data on people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 34 states from 1996 to 2005, 38.3 percent of those diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed with AIDS within a year, and 6.7 percent were diagnosed with AIDS over the next two years.

Since progression from HIV to AIDS typically takes about 10 years without treatment, these findings highlight the importance of testing for HIV early, when antiretroviral treatments can deliver maximum benefit, Shouse said.

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