CDC Says Docs Testing MSM for HIV, But Few Others

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Tuesday July 29, 2014

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis shows that while most primary care physicians offer regular, routine HIV testing to gay and bisexual men, only 1 in 5 provides routine screening for all patients.

"Testing remains an important HIV prevention tool. It is the first step toward ensuring that those living with HIV get the treatment and care they need to protect their health and reduce their likelihood of transmission. Yet the majority of Americans have never been tested, and nearly 1 in 6 people who are HIV-infected do not know it," writes the CDC in their analysis.

The CDC recommends that everyone be tested at least once -- and for gay men, at least once a year -- to ensure those living with HIV get the care and treatment they need to protect their health and reduce the likelihood of transmission.

The new study was presented at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. Key findings by lead author Pollyanna Chavez of the CDC show that only 21 percent of primary care physicians reported routinely screening all patients not previously tested.

But encouragingly, 65 percent of providers reported routinely screening men who have sex with men (MSM). Among those who reported some routine screening, 85 percent reported that they offered repeat screening to MSM, consistent with CDC recommendations.

In 2006, CDC issued guidelines recommending that all adolescents and adults get tested for HIV at least once as a part of routine medical care. But this study found that doctors were less likely to routinely screen all patients if they had been practicing for 20 years or more, were unaware of the rate of HIV infection in their patient population, or perceived that rate to be low or moderate.

"While most providers report routinely and repeatedly offering testing to their MSM patients, authors conclude that efforts to promote routine HIV screening for all patients are still needed, with a particular focus on physicians who have practiced medicine for 20 or more years and those with low, moderate, or unknown rates of HIV within their practice," writes the CDC.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.