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article imageControversial study claims HIV tests can do more harm than good

By Kim I. Hartman     Jun 3, 2010 in Science
Blacksburg - A controversial new report was released, concluding HIV testing has done more harm then good. It claims that it is a misleading assertion that HIV testing is 99.5% accurate and can cause false positive results.
The idea of early detection and cure is appealing. But if the test is unreliable, and the treatment itself harmful, universal testing can do more harm than good.
The availability of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) for AIDS is leading to calls for universal testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can progress to AIDS, and for early use of this expensive drug cocktail.
While HIV testing is said to be highly reliable, Professor Henry Bauer points out that in a population at low risk for AIDS, a positive test is nonetheless quite likely to be a false positive. Moreover, many people with genuinely positive tests never get AIDS.
The number of "long-term nonprogressors" is not known, but in an article in the summer issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Bauer calculates that more than half of those tagged as "HIV positive" in a universal testing program could be either false positives or long-term nonprogressors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not agree
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come out and stated that a big problem in the U.S. is that many Americans are not getting HIV tests done regularly as advised.
The CDC recommends that people get an HIV test as regularly as they get a flu shot, but it is not happening.
Back in 2006 they recommended that all Americans under the age of 65 be offered an HIV test when they go to the ER or something of that nature.
The big issue the CDC has with this is that there could be many Americans out there who do not know that they have HIV, but actually are infected with it. This poses a greater risk to their own health, as well as the health of others they are with.
Dr. Bauer in his newly published study says being pregnant, or simply being black, is a risk factor for a false positive HIV test. Tests are calibrated the same for Africans as for Europeans, although blacks are likely to have "sticky serum" that reacts somewhat differently. Thus, HIV tests are racially biased. It is incorrect to assume that black men are more promiscuous, or more likely to be bisexual, just because they are more likely to be HIV positive.
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The report says he HAART regimen is so toxic that 40 percent of prescriptions are not filled. Side effects include heart, liver, and nerve damage.
A positive HIV test can also destroy a person's marriage, employability, insurability, and peace of mind. These tests should be used only where indicated, rather than as screening tools, and only with fully informed consent, Bauer states.
"Disproportionate harm from aggressive testing and treatment will be experienced by pregnant women and persons of black African ancestry," he emphasizes
Henry H. Bauer, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of chemistry and science studies, and dean emeritus of arts and sciences at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
Every 9 ½ minutes another person in America becomes infected with HIV. Officials from the White Hou...
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