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April 30, 2013

Dear Colleague,

CDC welcomes today’s announcement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – an independent panel of non-federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine -- of a grade “A” recommendation for routine HIV screening. These recommendations are a critical step forward for HIV prevention and care in the United States. They reinforce the importance of people everywhere knowing their HIV status and, if positive, accessing care, receiving treatment and other prevention services.

The USPSTF statement recommends clinicians screen for HIV in all adolescents and adults aged 15-65 years. It also recommends repeat HIV screenings for those who are at increased risk for HIV infection, including men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs. Younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk for HIV infection should also be screened. These updated USPSTF recommendations align with CDC’s 2006 guidelines which state that HIV testing should be a routine part of medical care for all American adults and adolescents.

Expanding HIV testing and ensuring linkage to care for people infected with HIV is essential to ending the U.S. HIV epidemic. Today, 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, yet 1 out of 5 does not know that they have the virus. We know that those who are unaware of their infections account for approximately half of all new sexually transmitted HIV infections in the United States. Research shows that people who are HIV-positive and know their status adopt behaviors to prevent transmitting the virus to others. Routine HIV testing is critical in light of recent studies that show HIV treatment can dramatically reduce the risk that an HIV-positive person will transmit the virus to their sexual partner.

HIV testing is the only way to help the 240,000 Americans unaware that they are living with HIV, learn their status and get access to care and prevention. Implementation of these recommendations will not only increase access to HIV testing for people throughout the nation, but may also help reduce the stigma associated with HIV testing that prevents too many Americans from seeking testing or treatment.

The USPSTF recommendation statement sends a message to healthcare providers and patients that HIV testing is important and should become a standard component in healthcare. Expanding access to HIV testing also brings us closer to achieving the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy which calls for increasing the number of people living with HIV who know their status to 90 percent by 2015.

While today's announcement provides cause for optimism – we at CDC know that implementing universal HIV testing has many real world challenges. It will take all of us -- federal agencies, healthcare providers, public health officials and all Americans across the country, working together -- to effectively scale-up testing services and link those diagnosed with HIV to effective prevention, care and treatment. We believe that these recommendations will encourage all healthcare providers and individuals to act, and bring us all one step closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

Learn more about the USPSTF and read the recommendation.

Sincerely,

/Jonathan H. Mermin/
Jonathan H. Mermin M.D., M.P.H.
Director
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention

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