The U.S. Preventive Services Task force, a government-backed group of clinicians and scientists, is expected to make a new recommendation requiring HIV screening become a standard practice.
Reuters reports the task force is set to make the recommendation that would make HIV screening as standard as getting cholesterol checked.
It was originally put forth for consideration in 2005 by the USPSTF but had no legs to stand on with insurers and was left up to the decision of individual doctors. President Barack Obama's healthcare law, passed in 2010, changes that. Insurers are now required to cover preventive services that are recommended by the task force.
There’s stigma and some embarrassment attached to getting tested for HIV. Many, patients and doctors included, are reluctant or embarrassed to bring up the testing because it delves into personal sexual lifestyle. Because of this, the CDC estimates that 20 percent of 1.2 million living with the disease aren’t aware they have the infection.
Routine testing as part of a physical exam would reach more people and get them treated earlier. This has been shown to cut the risk of transferring to uninfected people by 96 percent.
OraQuick, an over-the-counter, self-administered HIV test from OraSure Technologies was approved by the FDA in July. The test is slated to be priced at $60 dollars but a routine blood exam that includes an HIV screening would come to $1.50 per patient.
The CDC called for routine testing as early as 2005. The addition of the tasks force’s updated recommendation could push it into place in response to the 2010 U.S. health reform law that requires insurance coverage of preventative services.
These organizations aren’t the only ones involved in the effort. Pharmacies, including Walgreen Co is in a pilot program with the CDC that makes rapid HIV testing free, with a wholesale cost of about $20 each.
Nationally, 60,000 new cases of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS are reported to the CDC every year. Without screening, preventative measures and early treatment, the disease will continue to spread.
Weighing the evidence of those unaware of having the infection against the costs of routine screening tips the scales in favor of this getting approved.