Routine HIV testing urged


Grace Beahm

An estimated 240,000 Americans do not know they are infected with the virus that can lead to AIDS, but a simple test would put them on the road to effective treatment.

“It's a chronic, manageable disease,” said Ashley Redmond, manager of the Ryan White Program at Roper St. Francis Health Care.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last week recommended routine testing for human immunodeficiency virus in those ages 15 to 65. HIV testing services are available at local county health departments.

In South Carolina, 1 percent of 43,168 people who received an HIV test last year were positive for the virus, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement on the issue Tuesday.

“Routine HIV testing is critical in light of recent studies that show HIV treatment can dramatically reduce the risk that an HIV-positive person will transmit the virus to their sexual partner,” the CDC said.

Those unaware of their infections account for approximately half of all new sexually transmitted HIV infections in the U.S., the CDC said.

Local specialists support the idea of routine testing for HIV.

“We think it makes a lot of sense,” said Dr. J. Michael Kilby, director of the Infectious Diseases Division at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Treatment for early stages of HIV infection identified through routine screening is much more cost-effective, he said.

“We're in big favor of doing the test. It should be a part of health care for everyone in the same way you get your cholesterol or prostate checked,” he said.

Redmond said the goal of routine HIV testing is an AIDS-free generation. The CDC recommends routine HIV screening for people ages 13 to 64, she said.

The HIV test is a mouth swab. Results are available in 20 minutes. If the results are positive, they are confirmed by a blood test, she said.