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."
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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.
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 HealBlog.net. 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."
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