A recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is expected to suggest that HIV screenings become routine. The USPSTF is an independent panel of physicians who are experts in preventive medicine. The task force uses evidence-based medicine to make recommendations about preventive services to primary care physicians. A Reuters report cites anonymous health officials close to the panel as saying the suggestion could change the current procedure, which allows doctors to decide whether to screen a patient for HIV. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare,” insurance companies are required to cover services recommended by the USPSTF.
While the CDC already advocates HIV testing for nearly all Americans, the USPSTF has stayed cautious on the issue, unsure of whether more testing should become a primary care method. The Reuters report quotes the USPSTF co-chair Dr. Michael LeFevre as stating new evidence has come to light in the last seven years. More specifically, there is now evidence that treating people infected with HIV can help prevent the spread of the Virus.
Though nowhere near as widespread as in some places, such as Haiti or parts of Africa, HIV still poses a significant health risk to Americans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.2 million Americans have HIV, and one-fifth of those people (20%) don’t know they have it. The CDC estimates that 47,129 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in 2010.
As methods for testing patients for HIV improve and become less expensive, more widespread testing is likely. The FDA just last month approved an over-the-counter HIV test. Dubbed the OraQuick, the test uses an oral swab and takes 30 to 40 minutes to produce results. The test could retail for as little as $60.