Current HIV screening guidelines are too conservative

Early HIV treatment can save lives as well as have profound prevention benefits. But those infected with the virus first must be identified before they can be helped.

In a new study, two Northwestern University researchers report that current (CDC) HIV are too conservative and that more frequent testing would be cost-effective in the long run for both high- and low-risk groups.

The Northwestern team performed a mathematical modeling study to assess "optimal testing frequencies" for in different risk groups. They concluded screening should be done up to every three months for the highest-risk individuals and low-risk groups should be tested every three years.

The CDC currently recommends annual testing for high-risk groups, such as people with HIV-positive sexual partners, people with multiple sexual partners, and sex workers, and once-in-a-lifetime testing for low-risk groups (whose annual risk of acquiring HIV is only one-hundredth of one percent).

"Our results should encourage policymakers and medical professionals to reconsider how often adolescents and adults should be tested for HIV," said Benjamin Armbruster, an assistant professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

He and Aaron Lucas, a doctoral student in Armbruster's group, modeled various scenarios in an attempt to "optimize the tradeoff" between the societal costs of testing versus the benefits of earlier HIV diagnosis over a patient's lifetime.

Their study is published in the March 2013 issue of AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society.

Frequent testing has been shown to be an effective method for identifying new HIV infections. In the past, people with new HIV infections weren't treated until they had significant declines in immune functioning, as measured by the . But there is a growing consensus that antiretroviral treatment is beneficial for all HIV-infected patients, regardless of CD4 count. Starting treatment immediately after diagnosis also reduces the risk of transmitting HIV.

Within its limitations, the Northwestern study suggests that current recommendations for HIV testing are "too conservative, especially for low-risk groups who would benefit from more frequent testing."

More information: The article, titled "The cost-effectiveness of expanded HIV screening in the United States," is available at bit.ly/13PYGDc

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

AIDS journal publishes findings of two important studies

Mar 04, 2013

The results of two important studies have been published in the March issue of AIDS, the official journal of the International AIDS Society. One study notes that screening for HIV should be performed more frequently—up t ...

Wednesday is national HIV testing day

Jun 26, 2012

(HealthDay) -- More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but 20 percent of them don't know they're infected.

Canada should adopt routine HIV testing

Nov 26, 2012

Offering routine HIV testing to the general population rather than only to high-risk individuals will significantly reduce illness and death, argues Dr. Julio Montaner and coauthors in an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical A ...

Fewer than half of Americans have had HIV test

Nov 30, 2010

(AP) -- Fewer than half of Americans have had an AIDS test since guidelines were expanded to include routine screening, according to a government report released Tuesday.

Recommended for you

New study reveals why some people may be immune to HIV-1

Nov 20, 2014

Doctors have long been mystified as to why HIV-1 rapidly sickens some individuals, while in others the virus has difficulties gaining a foothold. Now, a study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.