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CDC urges doctors to make HIV tests routine

Experts also advise test as part of prenatal routine for women

From Christy Feig

Experts also advise test as part of prenatal routine for women

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- An HIV test should be part of routine medical checkups, federal health officials recommended Thursday in reaction to estimates that 200,000 Americans are infected with HIV and don't know it.

"We are not recommending mandatory testing in any group of people under any circumstance," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're simply treating an HIV test like any other medical test that would be part of good quality medical care."

The push is especially strong for pregnant women because there are highly effective treatments to keep an HIV-positive pregnant woman from passing the virus to her child.

In 2000, between 280 and 370 infants were born with HIV in the United States. To reduce that number the CDC wants HIV tests to be part of the regular prenatal tests pregnant women get.

"Pregnant women can choose not to have the test and if they do, we want their children tested after birth," Gerberding said.

Whether it would be voluntary or mandatory for those babies to be tested is being left to the states to decide, but Gerberding said the CDC wants everything done to make sure children born to infected mothers have a chance to get the powerful HIV medicines that have saved many from dying of AIDS.

This push for HIV testing is essential because current prevention efforts have stalled, Gerberding said. Detecting more people who are infected with the virus will boost prevention, because studies show once people find out they are HIV-positive, they are more likely to take steps to prevent infecting others, she said.

"Since there has been a plateauing of 40,000 new infections each year for more than a decade, the time has come to be much more proactive," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. "It's time to incorporate routine testing in care."

The new advisory to physicians, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is also driven by new technology -- a rapid HIV test that provides test results in 20 minutes.

Before the rapid test was approved, a significant proportion of those who were tested didn't come back for results. In 2000, CDC studies found that of those who had positive HIV tests, 31 percent did not return to learn their test results.

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