Fewer than 40% of people in the United States have ever been tested for HIV, according to the CDC. 

The data, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), underscored the urgent need to increase HIV testing and end the United States HIV epidemic.

An analysis of 2016-2017 data from a national population-based survey suggested that most patients are not getting the recommended screening, even in areas with a high burden of HIV. According to the report, less than 30% of people in the United States most at risk of acquiring HIV were tested in the past year.

Furthermore, in the 50 local jurisdictions where more than half of HIV diagnoses occur, less than 35% of people recommended for annual HIV testing were tested in the past year, and in states with rural areas that are particularly affected by HIV, just 26% of people recommended for annual HIV testing were tested in the past year.

The report was released Thursday on National HIV Testing Day, an initiative first observed on June 27, 1995, to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment.

“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” said Robert R. Redfield MD, CDC director, in a prepared statement. “As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow.”

The CDC recommends that patients between the ages of 13 and 64 years be screened at least once in their lifetime. Those with specific risk factors, including sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and anyone who has had more than 1 sex partner since their last HIV test, should be screened at least once a year.

Whether the result is positive or negative, getting tested for HIV helps patients take control of their own health, according to the release. A negative HIV test result can lead to prevention options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill to prevent HIV acquisition. A positive result should lead a patient to care and treatment.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has a proposed a multi-year initiative, “Ending the HIV Epidemic – A Plan for America,” that is designed to end the HIV epidemic over 10 years by significantly increasing public health resources, technology, and expertise on the ground in the hardest impacted areas.


Reference 

Most Americans Have Never Had an HIV Test, New Data Show [news release]. CDC website. Published June 27, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0627-americans-hiv-test.html Accessed June 27, 2019.