Almost Half of All U.S. Adults Have Been Tested for HIV, CDC Study Says
Nearly 50% of all U.S. adults under age 65 have been tested for HIV at least once, according to a study in the June 13 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters reports. Only 38% of adults in the United States said in 1994 that they had been tested for HIV (Simao, Reuters, 6/12). CDC researchers analyzed data from the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a state-based, random telephone survey of civilian residents between the ages of 18 and 65 in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For 2001, the BRFSS included information on HIV- and AIDS-related "knowledge, attitudes and HIV-antibody testing history" for 170,412 people (Mack/Lansky, MMWR, 6/13). The CDC found that more than 50% of participants in Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands had been tested for HIV, while fewer than 40% of participants in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia had been tested (Reuters Health, 6/12). Washington, D.C., had the highest rate -- 65.3% -- of adults tested, while South Dakota had the lowest rate, with 31.5% tested (Reuters, 6/12). The study also demonstrated that women were more likely to be tested than men (Reuters Health, 6/12). The results suggest that HIV tests have "become a more routine medical procedure even among those at low risk" for the disease, Reuters reports. Amy Lansky, an epidemiologist at the CDC's division of reproductive health and co-author of the study, said, "When you look at the prevalence of testing in the general population it has slowly increased over time, and that is good news" (Reuters, 6/12).
CDC Testing Strategy
The CDC previously has said that the country's AIDS programs' emphasis on community outreach prevention programs has proved ineffective, and it has decided to shift its focus to HIV testing. The strategy, outlined in the April 18 issue of the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, calls for HIV to be included among the diseases, such as syphilis, rubella, group B Strep and hepatitis, for which pregnant women are already tested. The plan also urges local health authorities to make widespread use of a rapid HIV test, approved by the FDA in November 2002 and approved for expanded availability by HHS in February. The CDC wants to offer the test in all federally funded clinics, as well as in places where there are people who may not have access to routine medical care, such as homeless shelters, jails and substance abuse treatment centers. Dr. Rob Janssen, CDC's director of HIV prevention, in April said that the government will invest most heavily in initiatives that offer HIV testing and counseling to HIV-positive people and people at high risk for contracting the virus, which could jeopardize approximately $90 million in annual federal funding for community groups. Janssen said that the changes could be in effect by July 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28). Lansky said, "We need to focus prevention efforts on those at highest risk, so you wouldn't necessarily expect that everyone should be tested" (Reuters, 6/12).