DENVER — It used to be only people at high-risk for the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV should be tested.
But an influential government health panel now says all Americans, ages 15 to 65, should get the test.
It is a significant decision that means an HIV test could be as common as a cholesterol test.
The disease primarily afflicts gay men, black, heterosexual women, and intravenous drug users.
But the Centers for Disease Control says up to 21 percent of people don’t even know they’re infected.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says this recommendation will save lives.
The recommendation could make HIV screening simply a routine part of a check-up.
No embarrassing visit to an STD clinic.
“I think it’s huge,” says Dr. Mark Thrun, Director of HIV Prevention at Denver Public Health. He says the goal is to prevent people with HIV from infecting others or developing AIDS themselves.
“They won’t necessarily show up at our Denver Metro Health STD Clinic, downstairs in this building. Rather, they’ll show up everyone once in a while to see their primary care provider.”
Denver Metro Health Clinic tests 15,000 people a year for STDs.
He says doctors testing all adult patients on a regular basis will be incredibly helpful to reduce HIV infection.
More than a million Americans have HIV. But almost one in five—about 240,000 people—don’t know it.
“It’s those folks, those heterosexuals, those women, those people who we are not as actively outreaching to that for whom these recommendations are going to benefit,” says Dr. Thrun.
Most people we talked to support this screening.
“There are a lot of married men who are having affairs. You don’t think they’re high risk. But they are,” says one woman outside Denver’s Central Public Library.
“It’s for the protection of the people. So I’d be okay with it,” says Dawn Kreider of Denver.
“Insurance is going to pay for that. People don’t have to worry about that either,” says Rosemarie Birulkin of Denver.
“I had to do it right when I was 18 and I felt better after knowing I was ok,” says Tana Williams.
“I think age 15 to 65 is a little too much,” says Sean Valdez.
It is a disease that finds 50,000 new victims a year.
But this recommendation once adopted, will lead to sooner treatment, saving lives, and preventing HIV’s spread.
The task force could then adopt them early next year.
That’s when insurance companies would be required to pay for the test. But you will still have to ask your doctor for it.