The importance of early detection of HIV is a well-known fact that cannot be stated enough. Yet many individuals are unaware that they have the virus, and as such often have poorer prognosis once it is detected. Now, new guidelines have come out in the US, which recommend that all individuals between ages of 15 to 65 get routinely tested for HIV.
In the US, an estimated 1.2 million individuals have HIV. It is thought that 25% of them are unaware they carry the virus and that these 25% account for 75% of new cases of HIV. Similar patterns have been suggested in the UK, where 96 000 individuals are thought to have HIV, of which a quarter do not know they have the virus.
The recently published recommendations from the US Preventative Services Task Force align closely with past recommendations from the US Centres for Disease and Prevention where it has long been argued that testing for HIV is vital and should not be restricted to high risk populations only. Currently, only high risk groups such as gay or bisexual men, drug users and individuals that come from economically disadvantaged populations where there is a high prevalence of HIV are covered by insurances to be tested. However, with the new recommendations the insurance covers for HIV may become easier. It is hoped that enabling easier access to testing may increase awareness of the possibility to contract HIV, as well as reduce stigma that often comes with it. However, it is not clear whether these recommendations will lead to an increase of testing.
We are glad to hear about this, as we know how important early detection is to treatment. There are still many obstacles to HIV testing that have not been addressed. Nevertheless, the acknowledgement of the need of testing by a government agency is encouraging and is one step closer to early detection.
Quite often people diagnosed with HIV have other sexually transmitted infections. If you are unable to get to a sexual health clinic in person there is a service called The GUM Clinic where you can get sexual health testing by post. Regular sexual health checks are advised for at risk groups.