WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s a new push to make testing for the AIDS virus as common as cholesterol checks.
Americans ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once — not just people considered at high risk for the virus, an independent panel that sets screening guidelines proposed Monday.
The draft guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are the latest recommendations that aim to make HIV screening simply a routine part of a check-up, something a doctor can order with as little fuss as a cholesterol test or a mammogram.
The proposed changes would expand the HIV testing benefits access requirements in the package of basic preventive services created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). PPACA requires non-grandfathered health insurers and health plans to cover the preventive services without imposing co-payments, deductibles, coinsurance percentages or other cost-sharing requirements on the patients.
Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pushed for widespread, routine HIV screening.
Not many Americans have heeded that call: Of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, nearly 1 in 5 — almost 240,000 people — don’t know it. Not only is their own health at risk without treatment, they could unwittingly be spreading the virus to others.
Under the current HIV screening guidelines, only people at increased risk for HIV — which includes gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users — are eligible to get HIV screening without having to worry about insurance plan cost-sharing requirements.
The effort to change the preventive services package guidelines will bring this long-simmering issue before doctors and their patients again — emphasizing that public health experts agree on how important it is to test even people who don’t think they’re at risk, because they could be.
“It allows you to say, ‘This is a recommended test that we believe everybody should have. We’re not singling you out in any way,’” said task force member Dr. Douglas Owens of Stanford University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.