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21 July 2005
Call For Greater HIV Screening
by George Atkinson

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has updated its 1996 guidelines and is now recommending HIV screening for all pregnant women and all adolescents and adults exhibiting risk factors for HIV. The new recommendations appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The earlier recommendations on HIV screening called for routine screening and counseling for high-risk pregnant women and those living in communities with high rates of infected newborns. But because mother-to-infant transmission is a preventable cause of childhood AIDS, the new recommendations suggest all pregnant women should undergo screening.

"Having a test for HIV during pregnancy is one more thing a woman can to do to try to assure having a healthy infant," said Diana Petitti, Vice-Chair of the USPSTF. "Therapy helps the mother [by delaying overt AIDS and opportunistic diseases] and the infant [by decreasing spread of infection from mother to child]."

The specific risk factors noted by the USPSTF that indicate screening should be conducted include:

  • Men who have had sex with men after 1975.
  • Men and women who have unprotected sex with multiple partners.
  • Past or present intravenous drug users.
  • Men and women who exchange sex for money or drugs or have sex partners who do.
  • Individuals whose past or present sex partners were infected with HIV, were bisexual, or were intravenous drug users.
  • People being treated for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Persons with a history of blood transfusion between the years 1978 and 1985.

While the USPSTF has no authority to implement or mandate that their recommendations be followed, many physicians, clinics, insurance companies and professional medical organizations endorse and follow their recommendations.

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