Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Screen teens for HIV: American Academy of Pediatrics

From Reuters Health:

All sexually active adolescents should be screened for HIV, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Monday (Oct. 31) in a new policy statement that broadens earlier recommendations.

And in areas with higher rates of the infection, all teens over 16 should get the test, the group added in its statement.

More than 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV, and 55,000 of them are between 13 and 24 years old.

"Forty-eight percent of the youth who are infected don't know they are infected," said Dr. Jaime Martinez of the University of Illinois in Chicago, who helped write the new report, published in the journal Pediatrics.
"It's important to realize that those who don't know they are infected drive the epidemic," he told Reuters Health.

HIV usually proceeds to AIDS in the absence of treatment, but newer drugs can keep that from happening for many years. And knowing you're infected may also help stem transmission of the disease to others -- a benefit that isn't seen with cancer screening, for instance.

Today, many doctors only offer testing to patients they deem at risk, such as prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexual men. But since 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged everybody older than 13 to get an HIV test regardless of risk factors in areas with many undiagnosed cases.

The new statement is a bit more conservative, said Martinez, lest pediatricians be uncomfortable testing younger teenagers. He added that in 12th grade, more than 60 percent of adolescents say they are sexually active -- and that often they're having sex while under the influence.

An HIV test costs about $14, according to Martinez, and is accurate more than 99 percent of the time.