About AIDS

CDC Urges More Routine HIV Testing

The fight to stop the spread of HIV in the United States seems to have stalled out. While improved treatments have reduced the annual number of deaths to about 16,000 and have improved the quality of life for HIV-poz people, the same number of folks as in 1990, about 40,000, are becoming infected each year.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended beefing up routine HIV testing among pregnant women, intravenous drug users, and anyone who has engaged in unsafe sex. The premise is that HIV is being spread by HIV-infected people, so if they become aware of their status, they will significantly change their behavior and not put others at risk.

The move to more aggressive testing is still strictly voluntary, but if the CDC pushes HIV testing, it probably will become more common in doctors' offices, clinics, and hospitals nationwide. (Previously, routine screening was recommended only for hospital patients in areas of high infection and for patients at STD clinics.) Aiming to chop the annual number of new infections in half by 2006, the CDC is also pressing for more testing in prisons, homeless shelters, and other nonmedical settings, an innovation made much easier by the new oral quickie test.

Of the almost 1 million HIV-positive Americans, an estimated 30% do not know their HIV status. In one CDC study, of those who did get tested and tested HIV-positive, a whopping 31% never returned to learn the results! Odds are, they are still out there infecting others, ignorantly.

Sadly, many people with HIV only find out when they become critically ill with full AIDS. Years of opportunity for disease management and improved quality of life are lost, and survival is much more difficult to achieve.

It doesn't have to be this way. Anyone who has engaged in risky sex or shared needles should call 972-5580 and schedule a free HIV test. Or to find out more about HIV testing, call ASA's information line at 458-AIDS.

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