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American College of Physicians Partners with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Encourage HIV Testing as a Routine Part of Medical Care

ACP is member of “HIV Screening. Standard Care.” initiative’s clinical workgroup

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today launched a new initiative, “HIV Screening. Standard Care.”, to help physicians make HIV testing a standard part of the medical care they provide to their patients. The effort is designed to increase implementation of CDC’s 2006 HIV screening recommendations, which advise that all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV as a routine part of medical care at least once in their lives – regardless of perceived risk for the disease – and that individuals at high risk (e.g., those with multiple or HIV-infected partners) be tested at least annually. “HIV Screening. Standard Care.” is the latest phase of CDC’s Act Against AIDS campaign, launched last year to refocus national attention on the U.S. HIV epidemic.

“HIV Screening. Standard Care.” provides educational tools about HIV and the importance of getting tested, to be used by physicians in primary care settings. The materials include an annotated physician’s guide to CDC’s HIV screening recommendations, and patient materials and posters for waiting rooms.

“Many HIV-positive individuals walk out of their doctors’ offices every day without knowing they have HIV,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “We know that physicians must provide an enormous amount of care during brief patient visits, so we developed ‘HIV Screening. Standard Care.’ to make it as easy as possible for doctors to routinely provide HIV testing to patients.”

The announcement of “HIV Screening. Standard Care.” coincides with several regional conferences being convened this month by the American College of Physicians, a partner organization of the effort. Additional organizations supporting “HIV Screening. Standard Care.” include the National Medical Association, Society for General Internal Medicine, HIV Medicine Association, and the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

HIV Screening Key to Ending the U.S. Epidemic

CDC estimates that more than 200,000 individuals (1 in 5 Americans living with HIV) are unaware of their infection, and these individuals account for more than half of all new sexually transmitted HIV infections. Numerous studies show that once individuals learn that they are HIV positive, they take steps to prevent HIV transmission to their partners. Actions taken by HIV-positive individuals who are aware of their status highlight the importance of testing and diagnosing everyone who has HIV.

Early diagnosis is also essential to help HIV-infected individuals live healthier, longer lives by linking them to care and appropriate treatment. Yet many individuals do not get tested until they are at advanced stages of the disease, when anti-retroviral treatments are less effective and risk of death is higher. Recent CDC data show that 32 percent of those diagnosed with HIV progress to AIDS within one year of their diagnosis. The data suggest that these individuals were infected for about a decade prior to being diagnosed. This represents years of missed opportunities to help these infected individuals extend their lives though effective treatment, and prevent transmission to others.

Doctor Visits Provide Life-Saving Opportunities to Test for HIV

Primary care physicians play a critical role in ensuring that Americans know their HIV status. CDC data show 72 percent of Americans report seeing a doctor in the previous year for a routine check-up. While CDC’s HIV screening recommendations are designed to increase HIV screening rates in busy medical settings by simplifying testing procedures, a 2009 survey of primary care physicians found that only 17 percent routinely screen their patients. CDC cites significant demands on physicians’ scarce time and resources, some state laws that currently do not permit routine screening, and the need for ongoing physician education as factors affecting the adoption of the recommendations.

“It is critical that we adopt routine HIV testing for our patients,” said Amir Qaseem, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.A., F.A.C.P., senior medical associate, American College of Physicians and a member of the initiative’s clinical workgroup. “As physicians, we play a crucial role in identifying those who are HIV-infected, providing timely treatment and care to extend their lives and helping them prevent transmission.”

“HIV Screening. Standard Care.” is the newest phase of Act Against AIDS – CDC’s five-year, $45 million campaign to re-engage every American in the fight against HIV by combating complacency, increasing testing, and raising awareness among communities at risk. In addition to this initiative, several Act Against AIDS initiatives are focused on increasing HIV testing among populations at greatest risk, such as “Take Charge. Take the Test.” for African-American women and an online advertising effort for African-American gay and bisexual men.

About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 129,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults. ollow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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