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Testing everyone for HIV?

Janet Babin Jun 14, 2007
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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: More than a million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. About a quarter of them don’t know they’re infected. Most agree that finding and treating those people will improve public health, but there is no agreement on the best way to do that. Janet Babin has more from the Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: The Centers for Disease Control thinks the best way to find and treat people with HIV is mass screening. It recommends doctors test everyone 13 to 64.

But a new study from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health questions that strategy. It said mass screening would cost $864 million and detect about 57,000 new HIV cases a year.

For the same money, targeting and testing high-risk people would be three times more effective. Professor David Holdgrave led the study:

David Holdgrave: Even if you invested the same in both kinds of programs, you would have more diagnoses, more infections prevented, and at a lower cost per infection prevented with a more targeted counseling and testing campaign.

Holdgrave says many people who have HIV don’t have a regular doctor to recommend screening. He found that the best way to get more people tested is to target high-risk groups and counsel them beforehand. That encourages them to follow through.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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