The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.


Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Guest commentary / CDC recommendation


Routine HIV testing for all is long overdue

Early treatment for HIV is more successful than later treatment. But that's not the only reason to praise the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that doctors should test almost everyone ages 15 to 64 for the virus that causes AIDS.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV but that close to 1 in 5 don't know it. Even before there was any effective treatment for HIV, large-scale testing as a preventive measure could have kept a tremendous amount of suffering and death at bay. It should have begun years ago. Decades ago.
Fear and prudishness got in the way. During the early years of AIDS, there was widespread ignorance about how easily the infection might be transmitted. A backlash against the groups most commonly associated with the disease -- gay males, intravenous drug users and people with multiple sex partners -- included attempts to discriminate against them, so that even gay rights groups sometimes fought against testing programs. Ryan White, a middle school student who was infected through a blood transfusion, had to fight in court for the right to attend school. Blood banks put off routine testing, concerned about possible blood shortages. In 1989, the topic of whether to offer screening to all pregnant women was highly controversial. Some pediatric AIDS specialists pointed out that with early information, they might be able to avoid transmission of the virus to the fetus. Others contended that there was too much risk of social isolation for women who tested positive.
Most of us know better now. And no one would be required to undergo the simple test. But if the task force's draft guidelines are adopted after the four-week comment period, most health insurance will cover the cost and most doctors will offer it to all their patients instead of hanging back lest they offend someone. Even people who don't engage in high-risk behaviors can be at risk. And if routine testing discovers an infection, not only can patients be treated earlier, but they can protect the health of others around them. The cost of the tests would most likely amount to a fraction of the cost of treating people whose infections might otherwise have been prevented.
The epidemic of AIDS has not been stamped out; what has changed is that it's no longer the diagnosis of near-certain doom that it was in the earliest years. Had society treated this simply as a public health issue from the start, had doctors tested more routinely early on, some of the disease's terrible spread could have been avoided. At least we can start now.

This editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.