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HIV Test Met with Backlash from Citizens

What do you get when you cross mandated HIV testing for all U.S. citizens ages 15-64 with health insurance providers and Medicaid being forced to take up the cost? A backlash. As an influential panel of government backed doctors and scientists have released a recommendation that moves beyond the traditional practice of urging high-risk populations to be tested on a routine basis, some people have expressed concern over the impending adoption of the recommendation.

The move calls for all patients, regardless of their risk level, to undergo HIV testing. “The current recommendation is for screening everyone, regardless of their risk,” said Dr. Douglas Owens, who is associated with the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in California. A big reason for such a push in screening is that early detection of HIV can lead to better treatment and ultimately more saved lives. In fact, previous studies have shown that early HIV treatment can reduce transmission rate of the virus to an uninfected partner by up to 96 percent. While many people realize that early detection is key, some worry about being required by their insurance company to undergo the HIV testing, especially if their risk for exposure to the virus is low.

There may be little cause for concern for people under the impression that this recommendation means forced HIV testing for all. If this recommendation is adopted, the common patient can expect for their primary physician to offer the test to them during routine visits. Just as the flu shot is recommended but not forced onto patients, the same can be expected regarding HIV testing. The hope is that as doctors become more encouraging of their patients being tested, the dialogue among the population can expand to one of prevention and protection; not simply diagnosis and treatment.

While it can be understood why someone at low-risk of contracting HIV might refuse the test, it may not be a good idea to do so. Assessing individual risk may be easier said than done. The sexual activity of one’s partner should be taken into consideration when determining the risk of exposure to this incurable disease. Operating under the assumption that it’s better to be safe than sorry regarding HIV testing is precautionary and, in some cases, may save lives.

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