HIV screening helps to identify those infected sometime before they are symptomatic. Those who are diagnosed in the initial stages can benefit from early treatment. They can also take precautions to prevent transmitting the virus to others. The CDC recommends that a) all persons ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once; b) that all pregnant women be tested; and c) that those who engage in high risk activity that can spread HIV infection get tested annually.
In the December 3rd issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC reported findings from analysis of data from 2001 through 2009 from the National Health Interview Survey, a survey based on in-person interviews among a nationally representative sample of the US civilian population. They used the data to estimate how many people 18 to 64 years of age reported ever being tested for HIV. The CDC found that while that percentage held at approximately 40% between 2001 and 2006, it increased to 45% in 2009. This figure represents 82.9 million people and an increase of 11.4 million since 2006, the year that the CDC published their recommendations for more widespread screening.
With this increase in testing, it was found that the percentage of people with late diagnoses of HIV infection decreased. It had held steady at about 37% from 2001 to 2004, but dropped to approximately 32% by 2007.
While the findings show some positive outcomes, the report notes that 55% of adults in the US still have never been tested for HIV. The CDC emphasizes the need for all health care providers to expand routine HIV screening and for those who are in populations with higher rates of HIV diagnoses and higher prevalence to be screened more frequently. Screening is a crucial part of a strategy to reduce infection rates and provide early intervention to those diagnosed, which will ultimately save lives.