If health care providers follow guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), voluntary testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will become a routine part of physical exams for teens and adults this year. Under the guidelines, HIV testing would become part of a battery of tests given to all patients ages 13 to 64 who are undergoing routine physical examinations or emergency care. Consent for HIV testing would be covered by the facility's standard consent for routine tests. However, patients could decline HIV testing.
Critics say the new guidelines are flawed because they don't specifically require informed consent for HIV testing or pretest counseling. Advocates say the guidelines will reduce the stigma of HIV infection and help infected patients get treatment sooner. About half of new HIV infections are discovered in the course of diagnosing an illness for which a patient is seeking care. According to the CDC, 25% of Americans with HIV don't know they're infected and this group is most responsible for its transmission.
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Although not mandatory, CDC guidelines influence health care practice and insurance reimbursement. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov.