An Ora Quick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody test kit is seen at the AIDS Service Center of New York City lower Manhattan headquarters in New York. (Photo : Reuters )
A federal panel of medical experts recommends that everyone between the ages of 15 and 65 should be screened for HIV infection, citing evidence from recent studies showing that early intervention is a vital component to effective treatment.
The recommendation comes from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force in an attempt to combat the challenges of the virus that can develop into AIDS.
"HIV is a critical public health problem, and there are still 50,000 new infections per year," said Dr. Doug Owens, a member of the task force and professor of medicine at Stanford University.
"There's very good evidence that treatment is effective when given earlier, at a time when people are often asymptomatic. So the only way they would know that they had HIV, or that they needed treatment, is to be screened."
The task force's recommendation comes after recent studies revealed the efficacy associated with early intervention using antiretroviral drugs. In March, doctors claimed they "functionally cured" an infant in Mississippi of HIV following immediate treatment of the child after it was born.
Routine HIV screening in adolescents and adults has been recommended by various medical groups like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recent years, in contrast to the more conservative recommendations made in the past by the federal task force.
But with the panel's new recommendations, published by the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, their stance on HIV screening more closely resembles more proactive protocols.
"We hope that now, with all groups recommending really similar things, the message will get out," Owens said.
The task force has only recommended screening for people considered to be part in risk groups and pregnant women, citing that widespread screening could cause depression, social implications and false-positive results.
But with new evidence showing that 25 percent of people in the U.S. are infected with HIV and have no knowledge of it, the federal panel now says that early detection would "result in substantial public health benefits."
Dr. Virginia Moyer, task force chairwoman and pediatrician, said that the task force "found convincing evidence that conventional and rapid HIV antibody tests are highly accurate in diagnosing HIV infection."
"Although long-term use of certain antiretroviral drugs may be associated with increased risk for cardiovascular and other adverse events, the magnitude of risk seems to be small."
The new recommendation states that anyone between the ages of 15 and 65 should go for a one-time screening. The task force also recommends that anyone in a risk group who is older or younger, as well as women who are pregnant, should go for a test as well.