Should all teenagers be tested for HIV?

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all 16-year-olds in high-risk areas get tested — even if they're not sexually active

HIV test swabs incubating in New York: The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its guidelines, and now recommends that all teens aged 16 to 18 get tested for HIV if they live in high-r
(Image credit: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

As of 2006, 5 percent of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. were between the ages of 13 and 24. To help slow the spread of HIV among young Americans, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for mandatory HIV screenings for all teens aged 16 to 18 who live in an area where more than 0.1 percent of the population is infected. Previously, the AAP only recommended that sexually active teens get tested. Do the new guidelines make sense — or are they going too far?

This is a no-brainer: "I'm going to have to come down firmly on the side of it being a good idea," says Sierra at Babble. Indeed, I'm surprised we weren't already doing something like this. Every sexually active person should be routinely tested for HIV, regardless of age or relationship status. "People cheat, people have past mistakes — it's just a good idea to make STI [Sexually Transmitted Infection] testing part of your annual physical. No matter how old you are."

"Should teens be test for HIV?"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

And it hardly opens the flood gates: These guidelines are conservative compared to the CDC's, Dr. Jaime Martinez, who co-wrote the AAP report, tells Reuters. In 2006, the CDC recommended that all teens over the age of 13 be tested if they live in high-risk communities. We increased that to 16 since some pediatricians might not be comfortable testing young teens. But "it's important to realize that those who don't know they are infected drive the epidemic." We've got to start testing teens.

"Group calls for HIV screening of teens who have sex"

These guidelines raise more questions than they answer: "There is reasonable evidence to support screening, but it is not clear what the best approach is," Dr. Jason Haukoos, a critic of the new guidelines, tells Who is going to pay for all these screenings? Is this approach even cost-effective? Would parents need to give consent for their children to be tested? Would results be disclosed to parents? "The policy statement is a reasonable statement, but... they don't take it far enough in terms of how this should be done."

"Groups push for HIV screening among sexually active teens"

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us