In a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics last Monday, the group has urged that all sexually active teenagers must be screened for HIV. The group further added in their statement that in areas with higher rates of infection, all teens over 16 should get the test, regardless of their level of sexual activity.
According to the latest surveys, more than 1.1. million Americans tested positive for HIV and 55,000 of them are in their teenage to young adulthood years, i.e. 13 to 24 years old.
“Forty-eight percent of the youth who are infected don’t know they are infected,” noted Dr. Jaime Martinez of the University of Illinois in Chicago. Dr. Martinez helped write the new report which was also published in the journal Pediatrics.
“It’s important to realize that those who don’t know they are infected drive the epidemic,” he further said.
In the absence of treatment for HIV, AIDS succeeds. However, newer drugs which can lessen the rate of disease progression can keep AIDS from happening for several years. Preventing transmission of the disease to other people comes from knowledge of being infected. This element of knowledge and choice to abstain from sexual intercourse delineates HIV-AIDS from other diseases.
As of this moment, a number of doctors offer the said test to patients which they deem to be at risk, e.g. prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals. However, since 2006, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention have encouraged everyone older than thirteen to have themselves screened for HIV without regard to their risk factors.
This new statement of the AAP may be deemed a bit more conservative, not unless the pediatricians feel uncomfortable of having younger teenagers tested for HIV. Martinez further added that in 12th grade, more than 60% of adolescents say that they are sexually active and that they usually have sex while under the influence.
A single HIV tests costs about $14 and is accurate for more than 99% of the time. Overall, the false alarm rate is less than 1%. Martinez shared that, “I hope pediatricians will feel comfortable offering this test.” However, as expected, not all experts are in agreement to this new policy statement.
Last week, a large study of French hospitals tested more than 1,000 adults for HIV only to find out only one infection. This questions the routine HIV screening practices and policies.
“There is reasonable evidence to support screening, but it is not clear what the best approach is,” shared Dr. Jason Haukoos, one of the critics of sweeping routine screening programs. “I think the policy statement is a reasonable statement, but I say that recognizing that they don’t take it far enough in terms of how this should be done.”
One concern, for example is the question of giving consent and disclosure when it comes to testing children. It has also been unclear as to who would pay for the extra screenings. “The big issue here is, we don’t know if it’s cost-effective,” Haukoos concluded.