Last week on World AIDS Day, the American College of Physicians announced a new position on AIDS screening. They recommended that doctors ask all of their patients to test for HIV. This follows the CDC position that has recommended that all patients ages 13-64 be screened for HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS and it is assumed that right now in the states over 1 million Americans carry the virus. Statistics suggest that in 2006, 50,000 Americans became newly infected with the virus. So the medical community may be embracing the HIV frontier by asking you during your next physical exam to screen for "cholesterol, glucose, and HIV." You, as a patient can opt out of having a screening done, but why would you? Unfortunately in this day and age, we are all somewhat at risk and earlier treatment intervention means a better health forecast.
This idea of making HIV screening routine helps doctors to avoid deciding which patients to specifically target and then ask the excruciating question. This way it's the rule and the patient can then "bow out." Based on the questions I get on this site, the reality is also that though we would all like to be able to trust our sexual partners - be they casual dates, serious boyfriends or girlfriends or spouses - the fact is that infidelity exists and unless you are practicing safe sex religiously - you are at risk. From an insurance perspective, more and more insurance companies are covering the cost of HIV screening. The hurdles that still need to be faced include the difficult conversation a doctor has to undertake once the results are in and positive. Many doctors do not feel comfortable asking about sexuality, homosexual issues and possible infidelity. If a wife who is monogamous and was HIV negative then develops HIV, then one conclusion has to be that her husband was probably cheating and gave it to her. Not a comfortable conversation to have.
Experts feel that we need to look at HIV as a health issue and not just a sex issue. If doctors can convey that philosophy to their patients - teens and adults - then half the battle is over. They can then tread carefully with follow up discussions. HIV screenings are confidential.
Published On: December 09, 2008