Most Americans have never been tested for HIV, the virus that attacks and weakens a person’s immune system.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to change that.
According to a new report, the agency found that fewer than 40% of people in the United States have been screened for HIV. It recommends that all people 13 to 64 be tested at least once.
Fifty jurisdictions across the country are responsible for more than half of all HIV diagnoses, yet only 35% of the people recommended for testing in those areas were screened in the previous year, the CDC says. And fewer than 30% of people across the country with the highest risk of acquiring HIV were tested in that period.
“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed an initiative called Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America that aims to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in five years and at least 90% in 10 years. It would increase resources used for public health, technology and experts in areas with the highest risk for HIV.
President Trump has proposed $291 million in the Health and Human Services budget to begin the initiative.
“Getting tested for HIV is quicker and easier than ever before – and when you take the test, you take control,” said Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, in a statement. “It’s my hope that through the initiative to end the HIV epidemic, we will increase testing and early diagnosis, speed linkages to care, and help ensure rapid treatment is available to help save lives and prevent new HIV infections.”
Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP is a daily pill to prevent HIV infection, and the CDC recommends that high-risk people take it as a preventative option if they have tested negative for the virus. According to the CDC, it reduces the risk of getting HIV through sex by 90% and through injecting drugs by 70%.
For those who have tested positive for HIV, the CDC recommends seeking immediate treatment.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to HIV – that is why everyone in America should get an HIV test at least once in our lives,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, in a statement. “It is a simple way we can all help end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.”