The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has sent out guidelines calling for clinicians to screen people ages 15 to 65 for HIV infection, according to a press release. Beth Meyerson, a health policy expert at the IU School of Public Health, has been studying health system expansion focused on HIV testing, and said that the new screening guidelines by the Task Force represent an important shift in HIV testing and will result in more HIV screenings because they will now be reimbursable, according to a press release. However, the availability of said tests is questionable.
“We do not know enough about clinician behavior, whether and how they offer the HIV test,” Meyerson said in the press release. There have been a few studies, and the results have been discouraging. Today’s final guidelines, paired with CDC’s 2006 recommendations to offer routine HIV testing in clinical settings, is an important step toward encouraging clinician engagement with patients to offer the test.”
The research Meyerson and her colleagues are conducting aims to get a better understanding of whether and how Indiana Community Health Centers and their clinicians offer HIV, STD and hepatitis services (including testing) to patients, according to the release.
Meyerson noted that clinical access to HIV testing is not enough, however. She said that in order to reduce annual HIV infections by 25 percent and increasing the number of people who know their status to 90 percent by 2015, the national HIV/AIDS Strategy goals, nonclinical options for HIV testing needs to be expanded, according to the press release.
This has led Meyerson’s research into the pharmacy world. She has been examining the possibility of pharmacies serving a key role in offering HIV testing due to their accessibility, according to the release.
Currently, the draft recommendation calls for one-time screenings of adolescents and adults, according to the release. Follow-up screenings are determined by risk factors for contracting HIV. The recommendation also calls for all pregnant women to be screened. People younger than 15 and older than 65 should be screened only if at an increased risk for infection.
Though the Affordable Care Act already mandates that HIV testing and other preventive health services be made available for free, according to Meyerson, the Task Force ensures that clinicians actually offer the test, according to the release.