Majority of Doctors, Public Believe Mandatory, Federally Funded HIV Testing Would Benefit U.S. Health, Survey Says
More than 60% of doctors and the general public in the United States believe that mandatory, federally funded HIV testing would improve the overall health of U.S. citizens, according to a national survey conducted by HCD Research, the Washington Times reports. HCD separately polled 864 physicians and 1,339 non-physicians from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 and found that 64% of physicians and 63% of non-physicians surveyed said they believe that compulsory HIV testing funded by the government "would improve the overall health of the U.S. population," according to the Times. Participants in both groups said that "employment issues" and difficulty in obtaining life insurance were the "most serious social concerns" associated with a policy requiring HIV testing, the Times reports. However, 59% of physicians and 60% of non-physicians surveyed said that "health care benefits would outweigh the social implications," according to the Times. "Physicians are a distinct group who share similar education, income and status in society, and it is interesting that their views reflect those of the general public on serious and evolving health care issues such as this one," HCD Co-Founder Glenn Kessler said. David Williams, policy director for Citizens Against Government Waste, said that he is "not impressed" by the survey results, according to the Times. "Those 60% [of doctors who support federally funded HIV testing] should go out and get tested and pay for it themselves. Instead of testing everyone, people need to know how not to get infected with HIV. They need to practice safe sex," he said (Howard Price, Washington Times, 2/18).
The survey results come in the wake of the publication of two independent, federally funded studies in the Feb. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine that say 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. Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, health officials have recommended voluntary, 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 voluntary, 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).