Too few Americans get hiv testing early

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports data from 34 states which indicates that a majority of individuals still do not receive HIV testing until late in the course of the disease, a time when the effectiveness of treatments may be limited. These findings appear in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report which were released to coincide with National HIV Testing Day on June 27, 2009.

The study reports data on 281,421 patients diagnosed with HIV between 1996 and 2005 and categorizes them based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, HIV transmission category and year of diagnosis. As a group, 38.3 percent had a diagnosis of AIDS within 1 year and 45 percent within 3 years.

Late HIV diagnosis was observed to be most common among racial and ethnic minorities than in Whites. Asians showed the highest rates of progression to HIV after 1 and 3 years followed by Hispanics and African Americans. However, African Americans represented the highest percentage of those newly diagnosis with HIV during this period (52.6 percent) followed by Whites (30.3 percent).

High rates of progression were shown to increase with age and were higher among men than women. Men who contracted HIV through high risk heterosexual contact progressed to AIDS at higher rates than those who contracted it through injection drug use or homosexual contact.

Overall the rates of progression to AIDS have decreased between 1996 and 2005, primarily in part to greater awareness and advocacy for testing by public and private organizations. Yet it appears that greater attention needs to be paid to older Americans and certain racial groups. Some barriers in these populations may be that testing results in a stigma which is contrary to rich cultural traditions and beliefs or a lack of awareness that a risk can exist at any age.


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