Most Americans have never had an HIV test

July 1, 2019

According to a recent press release, the CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13-64 years be screened at least once in their lifetime, yet less than 40 percent of people in the U.S. have ever been tested for HIV, according to a CDC report published on June 27 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The new data, released on National HIV Testing Day, underscores the urgent need to scale up HIV testing to end America’s HIV epidemic. The analysis of 2016-2017 data from a national population-based survey suggests most people are not getting the recommended screening, even in areas with a high burden of HIV. Highlights of the analysis include the following:

·        Overall, fewer than 40 percent of people in the U.S. have ever had an HIV test.

·         Nationally, less than 30 percent of people in the U.S. most at risk of acquiring HIV were tested in the past year.

·         In the 50 local jurisdictions where more than half of HIV diagnoses occur, less than 35 percent of people recommended for annual HIV testing were tested in the past year.

·         In states with rural areas that are particularly affected by HIV, just 26 percent of people recommended for annual HIV testing were tested in the past year.

CDC recommends people with specific risk factors be screened at least once a year. That includes:

·         Sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men;

·         People who inject drugs;

·         Anyone who has had more than one sex partner since their last HIV test; and

·         People who have been diagnosed with another STI, hepatitis, or tuberculosis.

Whether the result is positive or negative, getting tested for HIV helps people take control of their own health. A negative HIV test result can lead to prevention options like pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily pill to prevent HIV acquisition. A positive result should lead that person to care and treatment, ideally on the day the diagnosis is made. This protects their health and is key to preventing new infections.

When taken as directed, HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in a person to a very low level—known as viral suppression or having an undetectable viral load. People who reach and maintain viral suppression have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to others through sex.

The new study mentions promising novel approaches to increase access to HIV testing. These approaches included integrated and routinized HIV screening in a variety of healthcare settings, as well as scaling up partner notification and social/sexual network screening strategies, and mass distribution of HIV self-tests.

NIH has more information