HIV Testing Guidelines Good For Public Health

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) lauded the American Medical Association (AMA) for recently updating its HIV testing policy to include guidelines supporting wider routine testing and improved protection of patient privacy. According to a news item in the Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily HIV/AIDS Report, the AMA's new guidelines call for, "...physicians to routinely test consenting adult patients for HIV."

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The AMA's move dovetails with a landmark revision in the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) own HIV testing recommendations that were issued in September 2006. The CDC now encourages U.S. medical providers to make HIV testing a "routine part of care in health care settings for all patients ages 13 through 64," and encourages linkages to care and treatment for those found to be HIV infected. The CDC also suggests that, "(HIV)... screening should be routine, regardless of whether the patient is known or suspected to have specific behavioral risks for HIV infection."

"Making HIV testing a routine part of health care is key to controlling and reducing the number of undiagnosed individuals and will ultimately help us break the chain of news infections, " said Homayoon Khanlou, Chief of Medicine, US, for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "These new AMA guidelines are a significant step toward a more prudent and practical public-health-minded approach to HIV testing, and I would strongly encourage medical providers everywhere to quickly adapt and implement these new guidelines into their own practices and delivery of medical care."

"More than one million people in the US are currently infected with HIV; about half do not consistently receive medical care, and one quarter of the total do not even know they are infected," said Whitney Engeran, III, Director, Public Health Division, for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "While the new AMA and CDC guidelines are welcomed steps to promoting HIV testing as a routine part of medical care, there is still a lot more work to be done toward fully incorporating HIV testing into routine medical care. AHF worked successfully this year with the California Medical Association and other groups to get California's legislature to pass landmark legislation overhauling the state's HIV testing process, which removed the requirements for cumbersome, written informed consent. Unfortunately, other states have rejected similar legislation intended to streamline and improve testing while still protecting an individual's rights. Despite the work that remains, these new AMA guidelines will definitely be good for the public health."

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