CDC: No Evidence to Encourage More Frequent HIV Screening in MSM

HIV test, blood sample
HIV test, blood sample
The CDC systematic review follows a trend of clinicians offering more frequent HIV screening to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, but the evidence is insufficient to warrant a change to the current recommendations.

Despite the 2006 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for HIV testing, clinicians treating men who have sex with men (MSM) have begun offering more frequent HIV testing at 3- or 6-month intervals, according to research published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.1

This approach is also contrary to a 2013 US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement, which suggested annual screening after insufficient evidence to provide a specific screening interval.2

A CDC work group aimed to “assess the benefits and harms associated with more frequent screening of MSM,” according to the current article. A systematic literature review examined studies published between 2005 and 2014: 111 were reviewed in full, and 13 met the inclusion criteria for evidence evaluation.

Overall, study quality was deemed “low,” with 11 of the 13 studies addressing health or economic benefits or frequent testing, 8 including mathematical models with uncertain validity, and 2 addressing screening interval in clinical settings. No studies examined the associated harms or feasibility of conducting frequent HIV testing.

“[The] CDC concludes that the evidence, programmatic experience, and expert opinions are insufficient to warrant changing the current recommendation (annual screening for MSM) to more frequent screening (every 3 or 6 months),” concluded Elizabeth A. DiNenno, PhD, from the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC. “Therefore, the CDC’s 2006 recommendation for HIV screening of MSM is unchanged.”

Further study examining the benefits and harms of frequent HIV screening for MSM is encouraged. 

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  1. DiNenno EA, Prejean J, Irwin K, et al. Recommendations for HIV screening of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men — United States, 2017. MMWR Morbid Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66:830-832.
  2. Moyer VA, on behalf of the US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for HIV: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(1):51-60.