Efforts to Boost HIV Testing Rates Working, But Work Remains

HIV blood test
HIV blood test
Ramped up efforts to encourage more men who have sex with men to get tested for HIV have made an impact, but rates are still lower than needed.

There has been an increase in rates of HIV testing in men who have sex with men (MSM), but more work remains, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.1

Following the release of The National HIV/AIDS Strategy in 2010, funds were allocated to boost HIV testing and prevention efforts. Programs like the MSM Testing Initiative and the Expanded Testing Initiative were launched to bolster HIV testing efforts in certain at risk populations.

Laurie Linley, MPH, one of the study’s researchers, told Infectious Disease Advisor that their findings “reaffirm the importance of working with clinical and community HIV testing providers to improve provision of HIV testing to MSM.”

To assess the impact of initiatives like the MSM Testing and Expanded Testing, Dr Linley and the other researchers used National HIV Surveillance System data to assess how many MSM were actually tested following program implementation. What they noted was an overall increase in the percentage of MSM who were tested for HIV, from 51% in 2007 to 69% just 6 years later. Testing percentage increases were noted across all races/ethnicities.

The research also mirrored earlier published data that noted a spike in the percentage of MSM who had been tested for HIV in a previous year, “from 63% in 2008 to 67% in 2011.”2

The researchers noted some limitations to their study, specifically that because the data were only from a limited area, they cannot be generalized to the entire population, and some of the research was based on self-reports, which could have biased findings.

Despite the limitations, the researchers concluded that their findings indicate efforts directed at boosting testing may be working, but “given the large numbers of MSM still acquiring HIV (many after having a negative HIV test), enhanced HIV testing efforts might incorporate provision of biomedical prevention interventions such as preexposure prophylaxis for persons testing negative but still at risk for infection to reduce HIV acquisition.”

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  1. Linley L, An Q, Song R, et al. HIV Testing Experience Before HIV Diagnosis Among Men Who Have Sex with Men — 21 Jurisdictions, United States, 2007–2013. MMWR.  2016; 65(37);999-1003.
  2. Cooley LA, Oster AM, Rose CE, et al. Increases in HIV testing among men who have sex with men—National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System, 20 US Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 2008 and 2011. PLoS One. 2014;9(9):e104162. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104162.