The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that individuals ages 13-64 get tested at least once in their lifetimes for HIV and those with risk factors get tested at least annually.

Risk factors

Risk factors include unprotected sex or having multiple sex partners. CDC also recently reported that gay and bisexual men may benefit from getting an HIV test every 3-6 months. Separate, written consent for an HIV test should not be required.

Why test?

Early identification provides the opportunity for access to care and treatment early. Lowering the amount of virus in the body can keep a person with HIV healthy longer. Keeping the virus under control with medicines also greatly lowers the chances of passing HIV on to others.

Routine screening works! In the United States, routine HIV testing, antiretroviral therapy and safe infant feeding have helped reduce mother to child transmission to less than 1%. Without diagnosis and treatment, about 35% of HIV-infected pregnant women transmit HIV to their infants (CDC, 2007).

Young woman holds a red balloon, representing the I in I Know, an HIV testing awareness campaign sponsored by the Infectious Diseases Division of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Routine testing integral to HIV prevention, treatment and care.

Routine testing helps reduce HIV-related stigma by incorporating screening into regular medical care, and removes barriers to testing that may be created when requiring separate, written consent, risk assessments, and counseling for HIV testing.

In April 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) gave routine HIV screening of all adolescents and adults, ages 15 to 65, an “A” rating – generally aligning the rating with the CDC’s HIV screening guidelines. This rating expands the already existing “A” rating for people at increased risk for HIV (such as injection drug users and men who have sex with men), and for all pregnant women.

The USPSTF ratings are important because many private and public insurers link their coverage of preventive services to ones rated “A” or “B” by the USPSTF. The “A” rating has further implications given the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires or incentivizes new private health plans, Medicare and Medicaid to provide preventive services rated “A” or “B” at no cost to patients.