More Americans Report Getting an HIV Test

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WASHINGTON, DC—Progress has been made in increasing the number of Americans tested for HIV.

An analysis of data released in a recent CDC Vital Signs report showed that 82.9 million US adults between 18 and 64 reported having been tested for HIV in 2009. This is an increase of 11.4 million since 2006, when CDC first issued revised guidelines recommending that HIV testing should become a routine part of medical care. The report also showed that the percentage of adults who had been tested at least once in their lives increased to 45% in 2009, after holding steady at approximately 40% from 2001 to 2006.

“To see a steady improvement over just a two or three-year period I think is quite encouraging. But it’s certainly very far from success. It’s progress, but not success,” CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden said of the data during a briefing.

Many Americans Still Not Tested

The 2006 revised HIV guidelines recommended that HIV testing become a routine part of medical care for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64. In addition, the recommendations stated that specific signed consent for HIV testing should not be required and that general informed consent for medical care should be considered sufficient to encompass HIV testing.

The national data on HIV testing released in the report was the first data to show increased HIV testing since 2006, but CDC officials continue to worry that many people still do not know their HIV status, pointing out that there are still 200,000 or more Americans who have HIV and who are unaware of their status.

Jonathan Mermin, MD, director of CDC’s HIV/AIDS prevention program, said that the majority of HIV infections are transmitted by people who remain unaware of their infection.

Mermin also said that many people at higher risk for HIV infection aren’t being tested often enough. He noted a recent CDC study among gay and bisexual men in 21 cities in which 44% of men with HIV did not know they were infected even though almost half of these men had been tested in the past year. This underscores the importance of more frequent testing among those at highest risk.

The Vital Signs report also indicated that many people with HIV are diagnosed too late to protect their partners from infection and to take full advantage of effective treatment. In the 37 states with long-standing, confidential, name-based HIV reporting systems, 32% of people diagnosed with HIV in 2007 progressed to AIDS within 12 months, indicating a late diagnosis.

The goal of the National HIV/AIDS strategy announced in 2010 is to increase the proportion of HIV-infected individuals who know their status to 90% and to reduce HIV incidence by 25% by the year 2015.

The strategy was accompanied by a federal implementation plan, which identified specific actions to be taken by federal agencies to implement the strategy’s goals. Lead agencies for implementing the strategy include HHS, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, VA, and the Social Security Administration.

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