AIDS activists take part in a rally across from the White House in Washington (Photo : Reuters)
HIV testing may become a commonplace medical procedure for the general population in the near future.
By the end of the year, the U.S. Preventative Services Task force will likely make a public recommendation that HIV screening should be a routine practice for doctors. Given that Obamacare requires insurers to cover preventative services, this act would open up the availability of HIV testing to the general public.
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Based on a 2005 statement, health officials currently leave the decision to test for HIV or not up to doctors.
Considering that there are 60,000 new cases of HIV every year and 20 percent of infected people are unaware of their condition, the Task force's shift in position has the potential to stagger the growth of the AIDS virus. According to Reuters, early treatment of HIV "has been reported to cut transmission risk to infected partners by 96 percent."
Michael Kharfen, chief of community outreach for the Washington, D.C., Department of Health states that in order for this decision to have real impact, it "still will take culture change for medical providers, but this will be a tremendous leap."
Dr. Michael LeFevre, a primary care doctor in Missouri argues that the test is more than a cold examination, that is about breaking cultural stigma.
He argues, "This test is all about talking about sex and facing things about your patient that you feel uncomfortable facing...Doctors do not get into the habit of talking about HIV or thinking their patients might have HIV because they may not have had gay patients or they might not have known they had gay patients."
With 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, perhaps a change in culture is exactly what we need. If the Task force goes through with their recommendation, doctors will be obligated to have the conversations that we do not feel comfortable having, and to do what is necessary to curtail this epidemic from spreading any further.