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ACP Reminds Physicians and Public about Importance of Screening for HIV

Timely identification of undiagnosed cases of HIV can help prevent transmission

Philadelphia, November 29, 2010 -- In support of World AIDS Day on December 1, the American College of Physicians (ACP) is reminding physicians to adopt routine screening for HIV and encourage patients to be tested. The recommendations are part of ACPís Screening for HIV in Health Care Settings guidance statement.

"Physicians should offer screening to all patients older than 13 years, regardless of their risk factors, and should determine the need for repeat screening intervals on a case-by-case basis," said J. Fred Ralston Jr., MD, FACP, president, ACP. "It's important for individuals to know their HIV status so that they can get treatment to extend their life and also decrease their risk of infecting anyone else."

Every 9 Ĺ minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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.

ACP is a partner organization with the CDCís ďHIV Screening. Standard Care.Ē initiative designed to make it as easy as possible for physicians to make HIV testing a standard part of the medical care they provide to their patients. ďHIV Screening. Standard Care.Ē provides educational tools about HIV and the importance of testing. The materials include an annotated physicianís guide to CDCís HIV screening recommendations, ACPís Screening for HIV in Health Care Settings guidance statement, and patient materials and posters for waiting rooms.

"Screening can be offered at the time of a routine exam," said Donna Sweet, MD, MACP, a member of ACPís Clinical Guidelines Committee and a nationally recognized expert on medical treatment and research on HIV / AIDS. "Early diagnosis is essential to help HIV-infected individuals live longer lives by receiving life-saving treatment and care."

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.

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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 130,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illness in adults. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

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