As of 2006, the CDC recommended HIV testing for all people ages 13-64, regardless of risk group. This revision was a major step forward in efforts to routinize testing, and was the basis for CDC-funded testing initiatives such as the Expanded HIV Testing for Disproportionately Affected Populations in Healthcare Facilities program, which we have been funded to participate in since 2011.
Our Expanded HIV Testing and Linkage to Care Initiative (xTLC) partnership includes a network of 14 South Side health care venues (please see below) where routine HIV screening and active linkage to care for HIV positive clients occurs. In the past five years of our program, we’ve completed 265,643 HIV tests and identified 1351 HIV-infected clients. Of those HIV-infected, 559 we’re not previously aware of their diagnosis and of those newly-diagnosed, 80.3% were linked to care with an HIV provider.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the benefits of routine testing are myriad. It is estimated that one-fifth (236,000) of HIV positive Americans are unaware of their status, and that this 20% of people contributes to at least 50% of new infections. Furthermore, we now know that it is beneficial to begin treatment sooner rather than later--this makes it especially important to find people before their T cell count drops. From a cultural and psychological standpoint, routine testing offers the opportunity to lessen the weight and stigma attached to the test, making it less stressful for individuals to accept testing and for providers to offer it.
Routine testing was further corroborated as a public health priority in the Fall of 2012, when the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) gave the service the highest possible rating (an A) for preventive care. One major implication of this rating change is that HIV testing must now be covered by insurance providers so that no individual will have to pay for a test out of pocket.