National surveillance data suggest that screening for HIV is subpar, falling short of recommendations made in 2006 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings were reported by the CDC in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In 2006, the CDC recommended that all individuals between the ages of 13 and 62 years be screened one time for HIV and that individuals at higher risk should undergo additional annual rescreening.
A team of investigators analyzed data collected from the General Social Survey (GSS) conducted between 2006 and 2016. GSS is a household-based survey of US adults that is conducted biennially by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Since 2006, the GSS has included questions related to HIV testing and HIV-related risk behaviors. Eligible respondents (n=11,688) answered either “yes” or “no” when asked if they had ever been tested for HIV infection.
In this analytic sample, only 39.6% of individuals had ever been tested for HIV infection. Of the individuals who reported HIV-related risk behaviors within the previous year, 62.2% had been tested at least once in the past.
Overall, the median estimated time since respondents’ last HIV test was nearly 3 years. Of individuals with HIV-related risk behaviors, this time was 1.4 years. The values representing percentage of individuals tested and median time since the last HIV test did not change between 2006 and 2016.
This study had 4 possible limitations. First, recall and social desirability biases may have resulted from self-report. Second, exclusion of data from individuals who did not answer whether they had ever undergone HIV testing may lead to underestimations. Third, homeless individuals or people who inject drugs are potentially underrepresented, given that data were collected from households. Finally, response rates were low regarding specific HIV-related risk behaviors; therefore, analysis of risk groups was compromised.
“Findings from this analysis suggest that HIV screening frequency for persons with recent HIV risk is suboptimal and has not improved substantially since 2006,” the authors concluded. “Continuing efforts are needed to achieve full implementation of annual screening recommendations and prevent new infections.”
Pitasi MA, Delaney KP, Oraka E, et al. Interval since last HIV test for men and women with recent risk for HIV infection – United States, 2006-2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;67(24):677-681.