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Guidelines for HIV testing change

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

As with most conditions, HIV is most easily treated when it is caught in the early stages. This is why it is so important for people to regularly use STD testing services and get screened for HIV and other viruses and infections. Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force finalized its guidelines for HIV testing, and declared that all individuals between the ages of 15 and 65 should be screened for this virus at least once.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the recommendation was made to address the fact that people respond best to HIV treatments the earlier they receive them, but this condition has almost no symptoms in the beginning. Due to the lack of early HIV symptoms, it's necessary for people to get tested regularly even if they do not feel ill.

"HIV is a critical public health problem, and there are still 50,000 new infections per year," said Doug Owens, M.D., a task force member and professor of medicine at Stanford University, told the L.A. Times. "There's very good evidence that treatment is effective when given earlier, at a time when people are often asymptomatic. So the only way they would know that they had HIV, or that they needed treatment, is to be screened."

Evidence for screening
The news source pointed out that these guidelines are being released following a number of recent studies that highlight the importance of early HIV intervention. For example, doctors in Mississippi recently reported that after being treated immediately after birth, a baby born with HIV had been "functionally cured."

In the past, the Task Force only recommended HIV screening for intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, people who have unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse, those with an HIV-positive partner and pregnant women. These recommendations were crafted because the Task Force was concerned that recommending widespread testing would result in false-positives. However, since research has shown that an estimated 25 percent of individuals with HIV have no idea that they are carrying the virus, it is important for everyone to get tested.

While the recommendations call for people between the ages of 15 and 65 to get tested once, people should use common sense to help them determine how often they should get tested.

"The question is, 'Do you have ongoing risk, like new sexual partners?'" Owens told the L.A. Times. "If you do, then it makes sense to screen periodically."

What makes sense for you?
The Mayo Clinic offers some guidelines to help people determine how often they should be tested for STDs. The organization recommends that along with following the Task Force guidelines for HIV screening, people should use STD testing services often if they have tested positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia in the past, as these bacterial infections increase the risk of HIV. Furthermore, all sexually active women under the age of 25 should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea at least once a year, since they are more likely to contract one of these STDs.

STD testing is a simple way that people can learn more about their health and help keep themselves free of infections and viruses. In the end, people may regret that they did not get tested when they discover that they have an STD that is in an advanced stage and has already begun to affect their organs, but they will never regret getting a simple test to learn more about their health. Furthermore, there are even options that allow individuals to get these tests without ever having to step foot in their doctor's office.

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