Early detection of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is of utmost importance to help prevent the spread of the disease. Approximately 25 million deaths throughout the world have been attributed to HIV since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980’s, and roughly 40% of those infected are not aware that they carry the disease (Cennimo, 2014). Getting tested regularly if sexually active or if intravenous drug use is an issue is paramount in the healthcare of those infected and in protecting those who are not. The Centers for Disease Control has made the following recommendations regarding routine HIV testing:
• Routine screening should be performed on all patients ages 13-64 in all healthcare settings.
• It should also be routinely implemented if the patient is presenting for treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and on each subsequent visit for this condition, regardless if the person has risk factors associated with HIV infection.
• Any patient beginning treatment for tuberculosis should be tested.
• All persons exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with HIV need to be tested.
For those considered to be at high-risk, testing should be conducted at least once a year. This includes the following populations:
• Intravenous drug users.
• The partner of an HIV-infected individual.
• People who have had more than one sexual partner since the previous HIV test, and those beginning a new sexual relationship, regardless of a previous negative test.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all adolescents ages 16-18 be tested, and those who are considered to be high-risk or who are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease should be tested.
Testing should be completely voluntary and informed and with no coercion. There should be no written consent required.
HIV testing is usually performed in a laboratory, but there is a home collection kit that has been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration that is available. With this test, the patient collects his or her own blood specimen and mails it to a pre-determined address along with a confidential code. Results are available in 1-5 days, and the company offers phone counseling, if desired.
HIV testing, not only makes patients aware of their health status, but also, helps prevent the further spread of the infection. Studies have shown that those who are aware that they are HIV-positive decrease their risky behaviors. Results obtained from HIV testing should be reviewed by a medical professional, and the patient should be educated on their meaning and implications.