Nearly everyone ages 15 to 64 should be screened for HIV even if they’re not at great risk for contracting the virus, under guidelines proposed by a panel of medical experts. If the panel adopts the recommendation, Medicare and most private health insurers would be required to pay for the tests.
The proposal was written by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group that operates under the auspices of Department of Health and Human Services to advise the government and physicians on the medical evidence for preventive health measures. Posted online Monday on the task force website for four weeks of public comment, the guidelines also recommend that doctors offer HIV tests to people under 15 or over 64 if they are at high risk for contracting HIV and — in advice that has not changed — to all pregnant women.
The recommendations, which would apply to all but very low-risk populations, are a shift toward broader testing for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. The task force’s 2005 guidelines suggested routine HIV screening only for adolescents and adults at increased risk, including men who have sex with men, injection drug users, people who trade sex for drugs and those who have multiple sexual partners.
But studies published since that time offer strong evidence that HIV-infected people, their intimate partners and the public are better served by near-universal screening, said task force member Douglas Owens, a general internist and director of the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research in the School of Medicine at Stanford.