Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces Discussing HIV Testing as Part of Routine Medical Care
Two independent, federally funded studies published in the Feb. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that voluntary HIV testing should be a routine part of medical care in the United States and that early detection of the disease could add more than a year to the lifespan of HIV-positive patients at a cost comparable to other common screenings, including those for high blood pressure or breast cancer. Since the 1980s, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the United States, health officials have recommended routine HIV testing only for people living in large cities with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates or people in high-risk groups, such as injection drug users or men who have sex with men. However, the studies suggest that the benefits of routine HIV testing, including a reduction in the number of new HIV infections and early treatment for HIV-positive patients, would outweigh the costs. Health officials believe that about 30% of the 950,000 HIV-positive people living in the United States do not know they are infected (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/10). Several newspapers recently have published editorials about the recommendation, some of which are summarized below:
Newark Star-Ledger: The researchers' conclusion that all adults should be tested for HIV is "sensible and important advice," especially now that some HIV tests can produce results in as little as 20 minutes, eliminating the need for a follow-up visit to get results, a Star-Ledger editorial says. Although HIV/AIDS "disproportionately" affects minorities in the United States, the disease is "everybody's problem," the editorial says, concluding, "Everybody needs to be tested, not everybody else. Understanding that could be a matter of life and death" (Newark Star-Ledger, 2/14).
Portland Press Herald: Including HIV testing as part of a regular visit to the doctor's office "makes sense" because "widespread and routine testing could save thousands of lives each year," a Press Herald editorial says. Because of "stigma, misinformation and fear surrounding the virus," some people might be reluctant to get tested, but "no one is talking about forcing HIV/AIDS tests on anyone," the editorial says. "What's on the table is encouraging more routine, voluntary testing of most Americans for the purpose of saving money and saving lives," the editorial says, concluding, "That's difficult to argue with" (Portland Press Herald, 2/11).
- Raleigh News & Observer: Promoting HIV testing "beyond traditional high-risk groups" could encourage HIV-positive people to seek treatment sooner and lessen "possible embarrassment" currently associated with testing, according to a News & Observer editorial. Fighting HIV/AIDS -- which involves overcoming "cultural, racial, gender and sexual stereotypes," in addition to medical challenges -- will require "money, dedication and determination," the editorial says, adding that although "victory is not yet in sight," routine HIV testing is a "valuable first step" toward answering the "perplexing medical and social challenge" of HIV/AIDS (Raleigh News & Observer, 2/13).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.